For the past 20 years, the School Building Committee has been a leader in the development and management of school construction projects, including the Lincoln School, the Roosevelt School, and Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School, as well as all phases of the renovation of Melrose High School and smaller projects such as the Winthrop HVAC system and the Hoover windows.
Statement by Mayor Robert J. Dolan
The task of the School Building Committee at the present time is to bring forward a recommendation for accommodating increasing enrollments over the next 10 years. Since the last two years of rising kindergarten enrollments, as well as the release of the School Demographic Study performed by NESDEC (New England School Development Council) this past November, the School Building Committee has been meeting continuously to analyze projections and consider the options for managing increased school enrollment. The committee’s recommendation will now be forwarded to the School Committee for their consideration.
Today the School Building Committee voted unanimously to recommend Option 6, which is the addition of two prefabricated “modular” classrooms each at the Hoover, Horace Mann, and Winthrop schools. The Superintendent of Schools has indicated that she intends to use these classrooms to serve as music/art and library space. These spaces have been modified in the elementary schools in recent years to accommodate enrollment growth.
The City of Melrose must plan ahead for increased enrollments. These increases will result in a shortage of 6 to 8 classrooms at the K to 5 elementary school level over the next 10 years. Overcrowding is not projected at the middle school or high school; the capacity at these schools can handle the projected student population growth.
I voted for Option 6, and I support the School Building Committee’s recommendation for the following reasons:
Minimizing Disruption to Students and School Communities
- Prefabricated classrooms maintain the same school configuration that exists right now, thereby causing the least disruption to the students.
- No other option allows for the school configuration to remain the same.
- Prefabricated classrooms are flexible because they can be added to other schools as needed.
- Reopening the Beebe School as a K-5 elementary school would require the forced redistricting of over 150 families, plus additional redistricting to even out class sizes in the other schools across the city.
Prefabricated classrooms have the lowest construction cost when compared to:
- Renovating the high school to create an 8th grade academy
- Acquiring a site and renovating it for Central Administration
- Prefabricated classrooms add minimal costs to the operational budget because no additional staff is required.
- Moving the 5th and 8th grades would require additional administrative, instructional, and support staff.
- Re-opening the Beebe as an elementary school require a massive increase in operational costs as well as the loss of revenue generated from the building.
- The conversion of the Early Childhood Center to another elementary school would end an incredibly successful program and would require additional operational costs.
- Prefabricated classrooms create excellent educational space and have been used throughout the country and the state.
- They are popular among communities, teachers and students.
- They have a proven track record of long term sustainability.
- There is adequate space at the three elementary schools to accommodate two prefabricated classrooms.
- Prefabricated classrooms are a long term solution.
- Prefabricated classrooms can be delivered in time for September 2017.
- There is currently no easily acquired rental or acquisition space available for central administration.
- Any space that is available is either too small, too large, or too expensive, and all would need to be renovated.
Adding two prefabricated classrooms at each of the Hoover, Horace Mann, and Winthrop Schools is the most educationally sound, cost effective, and practical solution to the overcrowding challenges at the elementary school level. It addresses the challenges associated with the projected increase in enrollment where it exists, at the elementary school level, and will cause the least amount of disruption to students.
The Process Moving Forward
The responsibility of the School Building Committee is to formulate possible solutions to the challenge of increased enrollments and make a formal recommendation to the School Committee. Those solutions were presented to the public at the School Committee meeting on Saturday, June 11, and will be presented formally to the School Committee on June 14 at 7 p.m. The School Committee will then have a deliberative process, which is open to the public for further discussions, followed by a final vote. After that, any funding order will be sent to the Board of Aldermen, who will then have a public process and a final vote to approve or not approve the funding of the option chosen by the School Committee.