By NEIL ZOLOT
WAKEFIELD — School Department Facilities Director Tim O’Brien outlined $860,000 in proposed capital improvement requests for the School Committee at their meeting Tuesday, January 24. Although the final decision will be made by the Capital Planning Committee and Town Meeting, School Committee members voted to endorse the list.
“My goal is to make the buildings last a long time,” O’Brien said.
Prioritized as Tier 1 requests are $220,000 for a new rubber playground for kindergarten a the Dolbeare School; $100,000 for a rubber playground at Doyle; $100,000 for classroom air conditioning at Greenwood, for which $25,000 was appropriated for an engineering study and $30,000 for roof repairs at various buildings. O’Brien explained a rubber playground is more accessible and meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards, also noted as required by the state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, by Superintendent Doug Lyons, while installing air conditioning in Greenwood classrooms brings them up to the level of other schools.
It will also allow it to be used in the summer. “We didn’t have summer programs at Greenwood because we were worried about heat,” assistant Superintendent Kara Mauro pointed out.
Designated as Tier 2 requests, which O’Brien said are “still major requests, but less critical” are $210,000 for work on rooftop air conditioning units at Woodville, an item denied in the Fiscal 2023 requests, and $100,000 for an assessment of all facilities. He said the Woodville units are still working but “near the end of its life. It’s something we can work with in the short run, but it needs attention.”
He feels an assessment, possibly by an out-of-town consultant, will “give us a roadmap moving forward and pivot from reactive planning to proactive planning and the ability to spend money in the right places. It’s always good to have a third party come in to give a different perspective.”
“It would be a resource for planning,” School Committee chair Tom Markham agreed. “It’s up to us to use that tool well.”
School Committee member Stephen Ingalls noted many objections to funding a new High School center around a lack of maintenance over the years. “It behooves us to know as much about our facilities as possible,” he feels “People ask why the High School hasn’t been maintained.”
Designated in Tier 3 is $100,000 for a rubber playground at Dolbeare, which O’Brien described as a longer term goal.
Switching to his role as a member of the town Crisis Team, he also briefed the School Committee on a new school safety handbook, along with Wakefield Academy director Estelle Burdick. “The plan is to get these into classrooms as soon as possible,” O’Brien said of what he called a reference guide.
“We’re working to make sure we have plans in place fopr teachers to access to deal with events safely,” Burdick added. “We want them in each classroom in a uniform location so everyone will know where they are.”
The guide is a flip book with tabs for natural disasters, student fights and school lockdowns or sheltering in place, among other things. Rather the having to find the subject matter, school staff members can simply open the guide in the appropriate place.
Information they’ll find will include recommended procedures and who to contact. “You’ll be able to find the information and follow through with steps,” O’Brien explained. “It takes the guesswork out of it.”
He’d also like to have an assessment conducted on emergency procedures and security at each school to elicit “suggestions on what we can do better so we can be as safe as possible in public schools.”