Superintendent highlights inadequate school conditions

Shrewsbury Having received preliminary approval from the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA) to replace the existing Sherwood Middle School with a new building, Shrewsbury Superintendent of Schools Joseph Sawyer took his message to the public during the Oct. 21 School Committee meeting.

    Sawyer, along with Sherwood Middle School Principal Jane Lizotte, provided a presentation complete with a slide show about the conditions, which he called “pretty deplorable” at the 45-year-old school.

    Among the deficiencies highlighted in the 20-minute presentation were that the school is not energy efficient and has problems with both its heating and cooling systems – as well as the boiler – and that the roof leaks. In addition, the cafeteria and sprinkler systems are inadequate and the in-house public address system does not function in the gymnasium.

    In its memo to the Shrewsbury School Department confirming that a new middle school was the most cost-effective and educationally sound option, the MSBA listed air quality issues, traffic congestion, and severe overcrowding – so much so that some Special Education teaching is being conducted in hallways – as additional reasons that a new school, not a renovation and addition project, is the preferred solution.

    Sawyer said the early estimate of the cost of building a new 130,000-square-foot middle school is about $48 million.

    “That was the preliminary figure we received, but my sense is costs will go down given the current bidding environment,” Sawyer said. “And keep in mind that the state will be paying for about 50 percent of the project.”

    Sawyer said he believes that the majority of the town realizes the need for a new middle school and supports it.

    “Certainly the part of the parent community that I interact with views this project very favorably,” Sawyer said. “There’s no question we need to do this, but I also recognize and understand that this is a difficult economic time.

    “I think the fact that the leadership of the town – the School Committee, the Board of Selectmen – is behind this is very significant,” Sawyer continued. “And I think the fact that the MSBA supports the project and will have such a large financial investment in such a much-needed capital investment is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

    Sawyer said architects are currently working on a detailed schematic design that needs to be submitted to the MSBA by Dec. 31. The MSBA will then meet in late January 2010 to decide whether or not to approve the schematic design. If the MSBA does vote to approve, it would also announce the exact percentage of its reimbursement to the town for the project.

    The town of Shrewsbury, Sawyer explained, would then have 120 days, approximately four months, to have a special Town Meeting to approve the project and to schedule a debt exclusion vote by the town to approve the local funding.

    “The tentative timetable right now, should the MSBA approve the design, would be to have the special Town Meeting in February and the debt exclusion vote in March,” Sawyer said, “and if all goes well, a new middle school by the fall of 2013.”

    Following the presentation by Sawyer and Lizotte, the School Committee reiterated its support for the construction of a new middle school.


Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=5900

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