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(From the Report of the Advisory Committee to the Special Town Meeting June 5, 2018)
The School Committee (SC) in 2012 began a comprehensive program to address the capital needs at the Town’s elementary schools and the Middle School. Outlined below are the process and steps that have been taken with respect to the Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham Schools since 2012.
2012 SMMA “Conditions Assessment and Feasibility Study”
The SC chose the architectural firm of Symmes, Maini, McKee and Associates (SMMA) to conduct a comprehensive “Conditions Assessment and Feasibility Study” of the capital needs of all seven of the elementary schools and the Middle School. This was funded as part of a $200,000 capital project in FY12. In the fall of 2012, SMMA presented its findings through an online database.
2012 School Facilities Master Plan Task Force (SFMP)
In September 2012, the SC formed the School Facilities Master Plan Task Force (SFMP) to review the information from the SMMA study, to identify short- and long-term capital needs, to prioritize the projects, and to develop a multi-year implementation and funding plan.
2013 School Facilities Committee (SFC)
The SFC was formed to carry forward the work of the SFMP. In a report to the December 2013 STM, the SFC noted that the Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham Schools have such complex architectural needs that it would be challenging to address their programmatic and operational deficiencies through renovation alone. The SFC recommended further study of possible scenarios for the three schools. The December 2013 STM appropriated $90,000 for the SFC to engage SMMA to continue master planning and to develop several different scenarios for addressing the needs of the three schools.
The March 2015 Annual Town Meeting approved an additional $50,000 for a refined Geographic Information System (GIS) enrollment analysis, refined traffic analysis, and consideration of the timing and phasing of any major renovations, reconstructions or consolidations of the three schools.
2015 School Facilities Committee Recommendation
In the fall of 2015, the SFC recommended that the Town build a new 24-classroom school at the Upham site (behind the current Upham), renovate and expand Hunnewell, and close Hardy. It also recommended that the Town borrow funds for a feasibility study to move this project forward.
January 2016 HHU Parent Advisory Committee (PAC)
Taking the SFC recommendation as a starting point for community discussion, the SC formed the HHU Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) to investigate and discuss further the information and reports that the SFC used as a basis for its recommendation. The group included representatives from all seven elementary schools, plus the Preschool at Wellesley Schools (PAWS) program. The PAC was divided on the SFC recommendation as presented, although 10 of the 15 members voted to support some form of consolidation from three to two schools, subject to further study.
The SC decided not to proceed with the request for the feasibility study originally recommended by the SFC. Instead, the SC requested further funding for traffic and enrollment studies to be decided by a new HHU advisory committee. The 2016 Annual Town Meeting voted an additional $200,000 for further traffic, enrollment and other studies related to the question of whether to renovate, rebuild or consolidate the HHU schools.
April 2016 – March 2017 HHU Master Planning Committee
In April 2016, the SC and BOS formed the HHU MPC to develop a master plan recommendation to the SC, the BOS and the Town.
The HHU MPC consisted of 18 members: six representatives from school districts/neighborhoods; five at-large representatives with experience in architecture, engineering, market analysis and Town government; and seven representatives of Town boards and staff. An Upham parent and a Hardy parent served as co-chairs of the HHU MPC.
The HHU MPC conducted extensive meetings, public forums and a Town-wide survey. It oversaw a new enrollment study by FutureThink, further site review and cost estimates of scenarios by the architectural firm SMMA, a public outreach survey and forums by consultants from the Ciccolo Group, and a traffic study of scenarios by the BETA Group.
In March 2017, the HHU MPC voted on three motions encapsulating its master plan recommendations:
Motion #1: That the SC undertake a feasibility study to build new 19 section schools at Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham, but that funding for the design and construction of the third school should occur only if elementary enrollment reaches or appears likely to exceed 2,350 students on a trending basis and/or the current school configurations are limiting educational needs. This motion passed 13-1.
Motion #2: That the first new HHU school be built at Hardy. This motion failed 6-12.
Motion #3: That the first new HHU school be built at Upham. This motion passed 12-6.
The vote on Motion #1 reflected the thinking of the HHU MPC on both enrollment and school size. Two 19-section schools would provide three sections (or classrooms) per grade with one extra as a buffer for enrollment fluctuations. One member of the HHU MPC was in support of schools with 21 sections.
The HHU MPC recommended that one of the two schools be the Hunnewell School as it is the only school that serves the southwest quadrant of the Town.
Motion #1 also defined an enrollment “trigger” at which the Town would begin planning for a third school. The HHU MPC chose the figure of 2,350 students on a trending basis, as that would keep the average size of the six schools below 400. The HHU MPC believed that a maximum size of 400 students per school is appropriate.
The split vote on Motions #2 and #3 on whether to build the first school at Hardy or Upham reflected a variety of concerns and opinions, which were discussed at length at the HHU MPC meeting of March 9, 2017.
The HHU MPC produced a detailed final report in March 2017. Report of the HHU Master Plan Committee. Also located here are the studies of enrollment, traffic, site review and public opinion that are referenced in the HHU MPC Report.
School Committee Actions from Spring 2017 to the Present
The SC deliberated on the recommendations of the HHU MPC and voted unanimously on May 23, 2017 to adopt a Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham Facilities Project Position Statement. Some of the key positions adopted by the SC included:
• Maintain the neighborhood school model;
• Rebuild two schools, rather than opt for simple renovations;
• Build Hunnewell and either Hardy or Upham;
• Build the third school if elementary enrollment passes 2,350 on a trending basis;
• Build 19-classroom schools with three classes per grade that meet MSBA standards;
• Make no decision whether to build at Hardy or Upham, but look to the subsequent feasibility process to guide that decision;
• Commit to retain control of the building and land of any closed school for eventual reuse as a K-5 school;
• Request feasibility study funds for all three schools; and
• Together with the BOS, create a School Building Committee (SBC).
The SC revised the May 23, 2017 Position Statement on Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham Schools at its meeting on May 8, 2018 to reflect some changes necessitated by the potential collaboration with the MSBA. The updated language includes clarification that the Hunnewell project will be executed and funded solely by the Town, while a Hardy-Upham project with the MSBA will require state involvement with the potential for partial state funding.
In addition to issuing its Position Statement on HHU, the SC, together with the BOS, formed the SBC in June 2017. Working under the guidance of the SC and the BOS, the SBC is charged with overseeing the building process through feasibility study, schematic design, design development, and construction. In accordance with Article 14 of the Town bylaws, the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) will assume day-to-day responsibility for managing design and construction starting with schematic design and will work jointly with the SBC similar to the process used for the design and construction of the High School.
MSBA Invitation and Process
The School Committee and Board of Selectmen submitted Statements of Interest (SOI) annually to the MSBA for each of the HHU schools between 2014 and 2017.
In August 2017, for the first time, the MSBA contacted the Town and requested a Senior Study site visit. The site visit, which included all three HHU schools, took place on August 23, 2017. In December 2017, the MSBA invited the Ernest F. Upham School into the “Eligibility Period,” the first step in its grant program after SOI submission. As reflected in the warrant for the October 2 Special Town Meeting, the School Committee and Board of Selectmen intend to study both the Upham site and the Hardy site for a potential elementary building project with the MSBA.