LONGMEADOW – The School Committee voted unanimously to recommend the submission of two statements of interest (SOI) for a new middle school project to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) during its March 9 meeting.
Superintendent of Schools Marie Doyle said the MSBA looks for a list of needs before accepting an SOI from a district. The SOIs are for Williams Middle School and Glenbrook Middle School, which both have limited space for students.
The district hopes to move the student bodies of both schools into a new facility, she added.
“Our only solution is to build a new facility,” Doyle said. “We don’t want to add more to a classroom; we certainly don’t want to make it so that our program is impacted and we don’t have enough space. So, our goal would be to maybe take down both middle schools, which are obsolete and outdated, to build a new state-of-the-art middle school.”
One programming element that the district would like to see with a new middle school would be increased space for special education students, she added.
Doyle said last year the MSBA funded eight out of 106 districts that applied for its Core Program. There are criteria by which the MSBA judges a school’s need.
One priority that the MSBA lists in its criteria are the “deficits in the building,” such as the building utilizes or infrastructure in need of replacement.
Thomas Mazza, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said Glenbrook was constructed in 1967 and is 95,000 square feet.
“It is an open classroom layout, which prevents effective use of any energy management system, which is currently very old and ineffective,” he added. “The roof was replaced in 1998; it is 16 years old, which is approaching its end of its useful life.”
Mazza said a phased window project also took place at Glenbrook from 2007 to 2009.
The building also consists of two boilers, one of which is 22 years old and was retrofitted from the high school, he noted. The second boiler is new and was installed in 2006.
“One of our capital projects this year, if you recall, was a new boiler for Glenbrook Middle School,” Mazza said. “The town manager did not recommend a new boiler, but scaled back the project to a lesser cost to replace some of the piping and mixing equipment and one of the challenges there is that the boilers cannot work in tandem.”
Williams Middle School was built in 1959 and is 74,000 square feet, he noted. Two modular classes were added in 1988 consisting of about 1,800 additional square feet.
“The roof was installed in 1994, so it’s 20 years old, and it’s basically reached the end of its useful life,” Mazza said. “We’re not experiencing any major issues, but there are periodic leaks that maintenance addresses to prevent any major loss.”
Approximately 90 percent of the windows at Williams are original to the building, he noted.
Williams Middle School also has two boilers, Mazza said. This past summer, a new boiler was installed in the school for $100,000.
Doyle said maintenance of school buildings is important because the MSBA factors that element into their funding consideration.
“Districts that take care of their schools, even if they’re really old, they get more points and more consideration,” she added. “The fact that the town has put money into maintaining the schools is good in when we’re vying for funding from the state.”
One safety hazard at both schools is the open classroom model, Doyle said.
“[In] the concept, anybody can walk down the hall and an intruder coming in would have access readily,” she added.
Doyle said the next step is for the Select Board to approve the SOI on March 16. If the board approves it, the deadline for submission to the MSBA is April 10.
“If the SOI is approved, the next steps would be [to] open up school tours for elected officials, to do school tours for the public so they can see what’s going on in the building, and then to meet our deadline for vote of funding,” she said, noting eventually, the project would come to a Town Meeting for that vote of funding.
School Committee Vice Chair Michael Clark said at the time of the new high school’s completion, the committee delayed putting the idea of new middle school before the town. “I think, as a committee, we’ve held off out of respect and out of deference to the residents of this community because we have asked them to take on a lot over the last couple years, but I think we’re honest the whole time about the needs we have, Clark said.
“Similarly to our colleagues on the Select Board, they’ve been very honest about their needs for their buildings as well,” he continued. “Unfortunately we’re at a point in time where we have a lot of liabilities between our DPW (Department of Public Works) building, and our middle school, and our senior center.”