Master Planning Task Force Narrows Options

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Thursday May 14, 2015

The Master Planning and Visioning Task Force, a joint city/school committee, has been meeting since November, sifting through complex information and vetting ideas of how the city and school infrastructure might adapt to keep up with the future needs of the city. The thirteen task force members have been gathering and evaluating data with the help of a consultant team made up of Cope and Associates, McKibben Demographics, Frank Locker Consulting, and Dore and Whittier Architects.

After a very successful March 31 community meeting, in which 143 residents participated, the task force has been gathering feedback on the process from members of the group, high school students, and Cope and Associates staff. One area of focus has been to determine whether the task force itself should conduct a community survey prior to their June 3 deadline.

Initially, the group had planned to develop a survey, conduct another community meeting, then make a recommendation to the steering committee. However, due to the fluid nature of the group’s work, including time constraints, this plan has changed. A community survey will still go out, but it will be created by the school board and will take place after the recommendation is made to the steering committee, which will now serve as the second community meeting.

At the May 7 meeting, consultant Frank Locker presented six options with associated costs for school reconfigurations, and gave each task force member a set of cards on which they could anonymously write their top three preferences. The two options that received the most votes both involved selling or leasing Central School. Option ‘Q’s configuration involved one newly built K-4 elementary school, grades 5-8 in the current middle school, and 9-12 in the current high school. This option would involve Chamberlin and Orchard either being sold or being re-purposed for city use.

Option ‘O’ involved 2 elementary schools, K-2 and 3-5 in one new school and one existing school (likely Orchard), grades 6-8 in the current middle school, and 9-12 in the current high school. In this option, Chamberlin would be sold or re-purposed by the city. The primary reason task force members liked this option was that equity issues in terms of access were addressed.

It was decided that these options would be moved forward for further discussion and evaluation. Business Manager John Stewart and Financial Analyst Annette Harton will cost out these options, including tax implications, and will present them at the May 19 task force meeting. The impacts and opportunities of each option will also be considered. After the group has reached a decision on the options they will recommend, the steering committee meeting will be publicly warned and the agenda will be posted on the city website in advance.

Missed a meeting? Curious about the process? You can catch up on the task force’s work to date via the meeting minutes and documentation on the city website:

SOURCE:Corey Burdick, Correspondent