Published in the July 1, 2016 edition
By JESSICA VALERIANI
MELROSE – On Tuesday the School Committee approved installing a total of six modular classrooms to alleviate a space crunch administrators see lasting for the next several years.
The vote was 6-1.
Two modular classrooms are being eyed for the Hoover, Horace Mann and Winthrop elementary schools. The roughly 30 foot by 50 foot trailers, with all site an other work, are expected to cost a total of between $3.5 million and $3.6 million.
The city will pay for the classrooms by going out to bond for 20 years.
At a previous School Committee meeting, the Permanent School Building Committee unanimously recommended the building of modulars. They would be the least disruptive solution, according to the PSBC.
In the public forum held on June 11, people made clear that they were also in support of the modular classes. The other strong possibility of moving the fifth graders to the middle school and eighth graders to the high school did not receive large support, and the school board said they want to do what the majority prefers.
Although committee member Christine Casatelli has said she prefers the option of eighth graders moving to the high school because “it offers loads of benefits to the students, specifically those in eighth grade,” she approved of the modulars because the majority supports them.
The one vote not in favor of the modules was from committee member Lizbeth DeSelm, who expressed security concerns.
“While I appreciate the amount of work that went into this presentation and I have clearly heard the overwhelming voice of the public in their regards to the modules over any other plans, in this proposal I see nothing to address my concerns in regards to access to these buildings being enclosed,” said DeSelm.
DeSelm had expressed the idea of a protective hallway connecting the main building to the other rooms. “I agree that this fits the growing needs of our district, but my concern is merely sheltering the students day in and day out as they move to these spaces,” said DeSelm.
On Tuesday, June 14, the Permanent School Building Committee voted unanimously to recommend Option 6, which is the addition of two prefabricated “modular” classrooms each at the Hoover, Horace Mann, and Winthrop schools. Superintendent of Schools Cyndy Taymore has indicated that she intends to use these classrooms to serve as music/art and library space. These spaces have been modified in the elementary schools in recent years to accommodate enrollment growth.
In a statement that day, Mayor Rob Dolan said, “The City of Melrose must plan ahead for increased enrollments. These increases will result in a shortage of 6 to 8 classrooms at the K to 5 elementary school level over the next 10 years. Overcrowding is not projected at the middle school or high school; the capacity at these schools can handle the projected student population growth.”
Dolan and the Permanent School Building Committee stated their reasons for supporting the modular classes.
Minimizing Disruption to Students and School Communities
• Prefabricated classrooms maintain the same school configuration that exists right now, thereby causing the least disruption to the students.
• No other option allows for the school configuration to remain the same.
• Prefabricated classrooms are flexible because they can be added to other schools as needed.
• Reopening the Beebe School as a K-5 elementary school would require the forced redistricting of over 150 families, plus additional redistricting to even out class sizes in the other schools across the city.
Prefabricated classrooms have the lowest construction cost when compared to:
• Renovating the high school to create an 8th grade academy
• Acquiring a site and renovating it for Central Administration
• Prefabricated classrooms add minimal costs to the operational budget because no additional staff is required.
• Moving the 5th and 8th grades would require additional administrative, instructional, and support staff.
• Re-opening the Beebe as an elementary school require a massive increase in operational costs as well as the loss of revenue generated from the building.
• The conversion of the Early Childhood Center to another elementary school would end an incredibly successful program and would require additional operational costs.
• Prefabricated classrooms create excellent educational space and have been used throughout the country and the state.
• They are popular among communities, teachers and students.
• They have a proven track record of long term sustainability.
• There is adequate space at the three elementary schools to accommodate two prefabricated classrooms.
• Prefabricated classrooms are a long term solution.
• Prefabricated classrooms can be delivered in time for September 2017.
• There is currently no easily acquired rental or acquisition space available for central administration.
• Any space that is available is either too small, too large, or too expensive, and all would need to be renovated.