Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Regionalized Hampden-Wilbraham middle school could save more than $1 million

Date: 12/11/2014

WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District could realize savings of more than $1 million with a regionalized middle school.

At the Middle School Task Force’s Dec. 4 meeting, Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea stated district middle schools could save the district between $675,000 and $1.2 million in personnel costs under a regionalized configuration.

The reduction cost of $675,000 for a regionalized middle school is based on staffing levels at a model level of service, while the $1.3 million cost was calculated based on what staffing costs would look for existing level of services at both middle schools, O’Shea explained.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Regulbuto said the current operating cost of Wilbraham Middle School (WMS) for personnel is $3,895,167 and the staffing cost for Thornton Burgess Middle School (TWB) is $2,295,132.

Under the model level of service configuration, one middle school would have one principal, two vice principals, six teachers for English, social studies, science, and math, as well as two art teachers, three music teachers, and one librarian.

School Committee and MSTF Chair Marc Ducey said the current combined enrollment of TWB and WMS is roughly 750 students and will continue to drop in the future.

“In three years, in four years, in five years, this situation worsens; at least [with] the two school model as they’re constructed today,” he added. 

The projected enrollment is 564 students for the 2020-2021 school year based on current K-5 enrollment trends.

The New England Development Council (NESDEC) originally released projection data in January 2014, showing an enrollment of about 600 students at middle schools during the 2020 to 2021 school year.

O’Shea said another updated NESDEC enrollment report would likely be released in January.

“If you’re going to have kids cross town lines, no matter what you do; if you go to one school or even if you maintain two schools, you still have to change that regional agreement,” Ducey added.

An amendment to the regional agreement between both communities would require a vote by residents to move forward, he explained.

“You can’t convince the people with smoke and mirrors,” Hampden Board of Selectmen Chair John Flynn said. “It’s got to be laid out, it’s got to be true facts, and it’s got to be black and white.”

Approximately 25 percent of district middle school students are from Hampden and 75 percent are from Wilbraham, O’Shea noted.

Ducey said during the past year volunteers have also operated both middle school libraries.

“Basically, the libraries at the elementary levels have been staffed by parents or volunteers,” Ducey added. “And if the volunteers couldn’t be there, the libraries weren’t open. Those are the challenges and that’s just one of them.”

Another hurdle that the district faces is the recently announced budget cuts ranging from $200,000 to $450,000 due to a drop in reimbursement from the state for regional transportation, he noted.

The next MSTF meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11 and would focus on a presentation by O’Shea regarding his recommendation for the district’s best approach, either one regionalized middle school or a continuation of the two separate middle school configuration.

“What I want to do at the next meeting is budget issues,” Ducey added.

Ultimately, the School Committee will decide the next path for the district with a recommendation from the MSTF about an ideal middle school configuration and whether to hire an engineer to conduct further studies regarding both middle schools.