|By Natasha Clark|
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW Kaestle Boos Architecture firm put together a menu of options for the Longmeadow School Committee to consider.
After working with the Longmeadow High Facility Improvement Committee since November 2004, Rusty Malik of Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc., gave a powerpoint presentation to the board, which offered four options.
According to Malik all options take into consideration the educational needs and future enrollment projections.
Some of the issues the firm noted with LHS was security, class size, hazardous vehicular and pedestrian cross circulation, wall cracking, the gymnasium floor being at the end of its life cycle, column corrosion, brick movement, and handicap accessibility problems.
Malik said that things like damaged brick are typical of buildings of this age.
LHS has had four additions in its lifetime, the last being in 1971.
Options one, two and three are short term and their main objections are to do
"repairs/replacements necessary to prevent further deterioration or maintain facility operation, measures to address health or safety issues, correction of code and handicap access violations, cyclical replacement of items at the end of their design life, space conversions to meet most pressing program needs, minor improvements that result in significant benefits, and correct items cited by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges)."
LHS is currently on warning with the accrediting association.
At the top of the School Committee meeting Longmeadow resident Sam Altman read a letter to the School Committee that suggested the district need not be involved with NEASC.
According to neasc.org, "Founded in 1885, the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, Inc. (NEASC), is the nation's oldest regional accrediting association whose mission is the establishment and maintenance of high standards for all levels of education, from pre-K to the doctoral level."
When Reminder Publications contacted the organization NEASC Assistant Accounting Manager Mary Ulliani agreed that no, "it's not required [for a school to be involved with NEASC.] It's a voluntary process."
"Accreditation through us is very helpful for high school graduates," explained Ulliani.
Ulliani also said that being a part of NEASC makes it easier for schools and colleges to get loans and grants from the government.
According to Ulliani, there are six accrediting agencies in the country. Divided by region others include the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and so on. NEASC is the only one in New England.
"So for that reason it's important," Ulliani said, adding that some colleges do not accept students that come from unaccredited schools. "Most public high schools and colleges are accredited by us."
Ulliani said that even private and religious dioceses are requiring that their schools be accredited.
So to get in good standing with NEASC, the School Department has been making an attempt to meet some of the concerns NEASC had with LHS.
LHS has been dealing with accreditation issues with NEASC since 2001.
In their Report of the Visiting Committee in October of 2003, NEASC recommended LHS address needed improvements to the physical plant including heating and ventilation, painting, lighting, windows, address class size, and align space use with educational goals among other things.
Kaestle Boos' Option one deals with compliances mandated by law and minimum program requirements. These costs are estimated at $3,800,000. Disadvantages, according to Kaestle Boos, is that Option one only addresses legal mandates and the facility condition is unchanged. Educational program issues would not be addressed, neither would potential capacity problems due to increased enrollment.
Option one-a. would meet mandated by law and minimum program requirements plus do science lab/classroom conversions, new lockers for women, new elevators, new stairs, and a new egress. Costs associated with this choice are estimated at $5,667,000. This would meet the most pressing codes and some educational needs.
Disadvantages are the same as Option one.
In addition to Option one-a, Option two-a would switch around the art area for more sufficient space. This is at a cost of $8,700,000.
Option two-b would include renovating the science labs for $10,750,000.
But the infrastructure of the school is still unchanged and educational programs are not addressed nor is future enrollment.
The average growth between 1991 and 2004 is two percent a year, according to charts provided by the School Department. So Kaestle Boos listed enrollment another key issue facing LHS in the near future.
Option three is all code required work and some educational program needs. The estimated cost $39,000,000. This would provide full building renovation that extends the building's life, modernized existing educational space and technology, and site improvements would address concerns identified.
But, Kaestle Boos believes that construction phasing will be difficult and that it adds additional costs. Not all educational program issues are addressed, nor are potential capacity problems in this option.
Long term Options four and five address educational needs and site problems.
Option four meets all code required work and all educational program needs at $53,400,000. And while it would allow full building renovation it construction phasing would be difficult, it adds costs, and the fundamental layout issues of the existing facility remains, according to the report.
Option five is building a new school at $60,000,000. This choice addresses all program educational needs.
School Committee Robert Barkett, also a member of the Longmeadow High Facility Improvement Committee, said that residents have also asked him if the committee has considered an educational campus, which would possibly combine middle school and high school. Barkett said that the Improvement Committee has visited other recently built high schools, including an educational campus. He also added that the way the campus was constructed high school students and middle schoolers didn't even interact, and that they had separate entrances.
Kaestle Boos and the Improvement Committee created a timeline as an example for the School Committee.
School Committee members had a few suggestions for the timeline including moving up the community feedback position so that they could get comments before they made a formal decision, some even suggested the Improvement Committee make a recommendation to the School Committee on an option.
"If your committee was the School Committee, what would you do?" asked School Committee member Jerold Duquette.
Dave Wheaton of the Improvement Committee responded that they "looked at the facility to see what could be done."
"We haven't considered what the town could afford ... it would be premature for the committee [to suggest anything]. You have to look at the impact of future spending. [We have] a new form of government ... take it to the other committees and see how it fits into the big picture," Wheaton said.
Superintendent Dr. Scott AndersEn also suggested that the School Committee gain all the possible information they can, including more on the educational campus.
"My recommendation is that the School Committee find a way to authorize that study. You need to take a long look at that and provide all potential options," said AndersEn.
Interim Director of Business Services Tom Caliento added that an educational campus could potentially leave an open piece of land that could generate revenue.