Published in the September 17, 2018 edition.


WAKEFIELD — While the renovation of the Walton School has drawn nearly universal praise, the remodeling of another West Side School is receiving less than glowing reviews from parents.

Over the summer, work was done at the Doyle Early Childhood Center to convert a portion of the gym into two new classrooms. A contingent of Doyle parents attended last Wednesday’s School Committee meeting and four of them voiced their disappointment with the renovations.

The complaints about the work centered on the elimination of gym space, the small size of the classrooms created and the lack of windows and ventilation in the new classrooms. But the main grievance that was shared by all who spoke at last week’s meeting was that there was a lack of communication from the School Department to the Doyle parents regarding the work and the decision-making process that preceded the renovations.

One parent said that she was disappointed to see that 75 percent of the former gym space is now gone. The two new classrooms are “small and cramped” she said, and one has no windows. The loss of most of the gym space means a much smaller play space for indoor recess, another parent said.

One parent wondered if the work done at the school was properly inspected and approved. She claimed that the Doyle was not licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, which sets policies and regulations related to early education and care programs and services.

Another parent worried about the impact that the cramped classrooms together with lack of windows and ventilations would have on children’s health and the spread of illnesses.

Chairman Thomas Markham told parents that the School Committee had also received a number of emails that echoed the concerns raised at the meeting. He assured those in attendance that their concerns were heard and taken seriously, but added that the School Committee would need time to investigate and talk to school administration and staff before responding in any detail.

New School Superintendent Douglas Lyons acknowledged that communications with parents regarding the work at the Doyle was lacking.

“We did not communicate well or effectively back in the spring,” Lyons admitted, saying that the administration failed to inform parents with respect to the decision-making and design process that took place.

“We know that the Doyle has needed space and that bathrooms have been a challenge at that school.” Lyons said. He said that the administration was working with Doyle Principal Shannon Blacker and staff to come up with a solution to the issues raised.

“That does not negate missteps regarding communication,” Lyons said, assuring parents that “Teachers are committed to creating an environment where students can thrive.”

Addressing some of the specific issues raised, Lyons said that the Doyle does in fact adhere to early childhood standards. He said that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education visited the Doyle in the spring, “and we passed with flying colors.” Lyons added that he would be happy to discuss issues with parents individually.

Lyons also noted that the new rooms were designed by an architect and were inspected by both the Building Inspector and the Fire Chief. He acknowledged that the older school does not have sprinklers but added that Fire Chief Michael Sullivan will be seeking money for sprinklers at the Doyle in his next capital funding request.

Markham reiterated that the School Committee needed time to look into the concerns raised.

“I will not let this conversation end,” Markham promised. He said that he would set up a School Committee visit to the Doyle and along with Lyons and Shannon Blacker would prepare a response to the issues raised.

“We have great confidence in Mr. Lyons and Ms. Blacker and the Doyle staff that we can all together make this right,” Markham said.