Master Planning and Visioning: Subcommittee Holds First Meeting

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Thursday August 10, 2017

The master planning and visioning subcommittee, which includes board members Bridget Burkhardt and Steve Wisloski, recently held their first meeting with administration to review priorities and next steps around master planning and visioning. Burkhardt and Wisloski outlined the items upon which they are currently working, but which may require timeline adjustment based upon various district goings on such as the budget defeats, that delayed some of the work. In addition to the board members, current business manager John Aubin and former business manager John Stewart are assisting with the effort.

The original master planning and visioning task force spent 18 months, beginning in mid-November 2014, evaluating how the city’s schools would evolve in the years to come as a result of changing demographics, pressures from airport noise, and City Center growth. This committee’s final report, as well as a minority report, was issued to the school board in August 2015. Final reports and studies were completed in August 2016 and the board worked hard to evaluate the information and find consensus. Ultimately, Martin LaLonde’s resolution, which outlined four goals with associated timelines, was the direction the board decided to take rather than moving toward any type of school consolidation in the near term, an issue upon which board members’ views varied widely and one which lacked public support.

The subcommittee is using the four items in the December resolution as the backbone for their work. They include identifying needed upgrades at the high school and middle school no later than June 30, 2018; setting up a system to monitor impacts on the district’s ability to maintain/improve upon K-5 education, providing documentation by September 1, 2017; investigating threats to health and education at Chamberlin and creating a contingency plan by December 31, 2017 to ensure equitable delivery of education should Chamberlin need to close; and revitalizing the district’s strategic plan by evaluating current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) by December 31, 2018.

To that end, the subcommittee met July 28, 2017, where they outlined ten action items for further work and discussion. The subcommittee is beginning to plan for the FY 2019 budget for an expenditure of $35,000 for phase II of the high school and middle school educational program priorities. They will want to figure out the scope of the work and how best to deploy resources. The top two recommendations submitted by architectural firms for identification of upgrades will be presented to the subcommittee soon and review is well underway by administration. Another item that is already in progress is the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) assessment. The district has gone through the self-study phase, but will want to identify areas that are in need and ask if the current space arrangements are what best supports curriculum.

A large piece of the puzzle will be determining the cost and effort to complete the analysis of the four options, especially if it was decided that Chamberlin School needed to be closed due to threats to the health and education outcomes of students. There were no funds in the FY ‘18 budget for a study on relocation of students if this action was warranted. If this needed to happen in the short term, the district would look to the facilities department budget for any unused funds in contractual services for this purpose.

In a related note, the subcommittee also discussed how they could accomplish an independent noise reading at Chamberlin School with the current F16 noise, both inside and outside of the building, to be used as baseline to compare to the F35s slated to arrive in 2019. The subcommittee would like to work to determine how best to monitor sound on a given day as conditions currently exist and ideally, develop an independent assessment. Communication with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the Air Force, and the district’s legal team, Stitzel, Page, and Fletcher will all help in determining what data options are available.

The group will also continue populating an analysis tool developed by business manager John Aubin, with sound information as it becomes available in addition to demographic and census data. The tool will be key to assisting with long range planning for the district. McKibben Demographics, the same team that consulted with the original master planning and visioning task force will be making adjustments to enrollment projections and city demographics.

How best to communicate the work of the subcommittee with other members of the board and the public will be developed further, but for now, people who want to stay up to date can attend board meetings or watch them via RETN as this topic will remain a regular agenda item.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent