Marlborough schools prep for feasibility study for Richer

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Marlborough schools prep for feasibility study for Richer
With no dedicated space for a library at Richer Elementary School, books have been relocated in several areas, including the cafeteria. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

MARLBOROUGH – On opposite ends of the city, there are two schools on either end of the building spectrum – Richer and Goodnow.

And in between? The challenge of finding enough space to accommodate more and more students.

Back in 2016, Marlborough Public Schools (MPS) explored the options of expanding or rebuilding the Raymond C. Richer Elementary School on Foley Road. MPS ended up shifting its grade structure and building a fourth elementary school – Goodnow Brothers – that opened in 2020.

Now, Richer is back in the pipeline, making its way through the state’s School Building Authority process.

On Thursday, Dec. 28, the City Council approved a transfer, from free cash, of $2 million for a feasibility study.

The MSBA will reimburse the city for up to 70.37% of all eligible costs incurred during the study.

RELATED CONTENT: Marlborough continues discussion on possible Richer School expansion

Should the funds be approved by the full council, the study would include the hiring of an owner’s project manager and a designer, who will study various options for Richer.

Those options may include adding one or more floors, major repairs – even the exploration of possible other sites.

Richer is currently situated between a neighborhood and Route 495. The school is located near wetlands, which would restrict efforts to expand.

Like the other schools within MPS, Richer is dealing with an influx of students, many from refugee families currently housed in local hotels; it currently houses 551 students.

And like the other schools, Richer is using whatever space is available for classrooms, including its library.

Richer Principal Lisa Richards showed how some of the rooms have been repurposed – bookshelves line part of the cafeteria; a one-time custodian’s closet is now used for counseling; another room was converted into a conference room; the library was split to accommodate an art room and music room.

“We’ve converted just about every space,” said MPS Superintendent Mary Murphy, adding that many corridors are lined with bookshelves.

Richer is currently in the MSBA’s eligibility period, which began in June and runs until Feb. 26. According to Murphy, MPS is on schedule to complete all preparations for the feasibility study before then.

Once the feasibility study is finished, the city will return to the MSBA for approval of the project; the City Council would then decide on funding for the entire project.

City Council President Mike Ossing cautioned fellow councilors about how to spend the city’s money. In addition to Richer, taxpayers continue to pay for Goodnow, are about to start paying for the new library, and there could be a new fire station for the west side in the near future.

“Weigh them carefully,” he said. “We’ve got to have the means to pay for them.”

Goodnow a ‘model school’

Recently, the MSBA approved Goodnow as a “model school,” meaning other school districts may use the school as a framework.

Goodnow itself was built from a model school in Athol; for using a model school, the city received some reimbursement from the MSBA.

According to Murphy, Goodnow’s design was “tweaked” to accommodate more flex space for small groups, as well as maker spaces.

Even before Goodnow was named a model school, Murphy said visitors from other school districts have been exploring the school.

Opened in 2021 to house 610 students, Goodnow currently has 814 students.

For more information about Marlborough Public Schools, visit www.mps-edu.org.

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