‘Kids need these upgrades’: Local leaders talk solutions to heat, capacity concerns in Marlborough schools

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‘Kids need these upgrades’: Local leaders talk solutions to heat, capacity concerns in Marlborough schools
Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant stands with State Rep. Danielle Gregoire and US Rep. Lori Trahan at Jaworek Elementary School. (Photo/submitted)

MARLBOROUGH – A 71 degree day led to nearly 80 degree temperatures in a Jaworek Elementary School classroom in Marlborough last month as local leaders toured the school. 

Come August, Principal Ron Sanborn said, that average temperature may climb as high as 87 degrees. 

“It is not the most conducive space for learning,” he said. 

Mayor Arthur Vigeant was on site for this tour alongside state legislators, city councilors and US Rep. Lori Trahan, among others. 

Speaking during and after the tour, officials acknowledged issues facing school facilities before then considering the impacts of planned federally funded projects. 

“Kids need these upgrades,” Trahan said.

Officials note difficult conditions

Marlborough has received just under $10 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) money since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of that aid – $6.3 million – coming through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA.)

The city is now planning to use $4.5 million to upgrade existing HVAC systems and add cooling systems at Jaworek and Kane Elementary Schools.

“[ESSER] was always to make sure that we could reopen our schools,” Trahan said last month. 

HVAC upgrades, she continued, are part of that mission.

They’re made all the more necessary, Superintendent Michael Bergeron added, by an enrollment surge currently impacting Marlborough. 

The city had added roughly 300 new students between Oct. 1, 2021 and the end of last month, according to Bergeron. 

The district, he said, has been able to manage class size, in part thanks to the addition of two new elementary positions added in the city’s recently approved 2023 Fiscal Year budget.

School spaces are packed, nonetheless. 

Even within last month’s after-school tour, guests paused in a Jaworek classroom now split in two by a portable partition. Two classes of students were studying in that same physical room, Sanborn said, with the partition representing the district’s attempt to preserve a sense of separation between the groups. 

“We’re just getting more kids,” Bergeron said. “And when you get more kids in these classrooms, it does become more cramped.”

That has impacts on already strained HVAC systems, he continued. 

“We want to look at this from a long term perspective and make sure that all the buildings have up to date HVAC as soon as we can get funding for it,” he said. 

City focusing on Jaworek and Kane with ESSER

‘Kids need these upgrades’: Local leaders talk solutions to heat, capacity concerns in Marlborough schools
Marlborough Schools Director of Finance and Operation Doug Dias speaks with Superintendent Mike Bergeron and US Rep. Lori Trahan during a visit last month. (Photo/submitted)

Issues persist across several district facilities, Bergeron said. 

Jaworek and Kane, however, represent some of the most conducive sites for work within the confines of ESSER funding. 

Where the city’s Whitcomb Middle School, for example, spans roughly 300,000 square feet, these schools are smaller, making upgrades more manageable, Bergeron noted. 

While it also needs work, meanwhile, the city’s Richer Elementary School is the subject of larger discussions involving the state School Building Association (MSBA), which the city hopes will fund a series of upgrades as part of a possible expansion of the school. 

The city has filed a statement of interest with the MSBA seeking support. 

“We want to make sure that we’re not putting money into a school that we could then have reimbursed by the state,” Bergeron said of the decision to leave Richer out of planned ESSER-funded HVAC upgrades, in light of the MSBA process. 

Rep. highlights funding need

‘Kids need these upgrades’: Local leaders talk solutions to heat, capacity concerns in Marlborough schools
Marlborough Schools Superintendent Mike Bergeron speaks during a visit to Jaworek Elementary School last month. (Photo/submitted)

Speaking after last month’s tour, and back outside of the Jaworek school, Trahan said she was not surprised by the conditions she observed.

Her elementary school-aged students see similar heat and classroom capacity issues in their own district, she said.

“[These schools] have systems in place where they either haven’t been able to afford the upgrades or they just haven’t been kept up to that standard,” she said. “That’s why this investment is so important.”

“It’s just proof that we need to continue these investments and ensure that our kids are in optimal learning environments,” she continued.

Project timelines to be determined

Even included in the ESSER funding plan, work at Jaworek and Kane will take time, as current supply chain issues prevent the city from completing its projects simultaneously, according to officials. 

“The companies aren’t out there with the materials to do it,” Vigeant said. “That’s a problem.”

Specific timelines for work, as a result, remained undetermined as of last month. 

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