After attending a recent meeting, a School Board member said he has concerns about the direction of the Facilities Committee.
During the School Board’s March 7 meeting, Board member Lynn Perkins said he attended a recent session of the committee at the request of a few people who are concerned about the direction of the committee.
“I want to make sure we are going in the right direction,” Perkins said. “One of the things that stood out for me is the fact we had a target deadline for when we wanted this done and now that target deadline is moving.”
The Facilities Study Committee was formed to look at enrollments, enrollment trends and where the trends are going in the future.
The multi-year project developed out of a strategic plan that was in response to declining enrollments in the school district, according to officials.
The district has experienced a continued decline in enrollment over the past 10 years, and School Board members are seeking solutions for the district and the community.
In June, the committee concluded phase two of the project with a comprehensive report, which included several scenarios for possibly consolidating.
With the possibility of closing a school as early as the 2019-20 school year, administrators recently provided several scenarios for addressing the district’s space needs.
Plans call for developing the best scenario by around June and then looking at an implementation plan that can be incorporated into next year’s budget decision, according to officials.
But after attending the recent meeting, Perkins said he is concerned that the project could be delayed.
He added, “I just want to make sure that it is going in the right direction and that it’s completed in a timely manner and the results of it come back to the board at a time when we might be effective with it and make sure it doesn’t drop in our laps at the end of August.”
School Board Chairman Dan McKenna said administrators are preparing an update on the Facilities Committee after it meets, which could be at the end of this month or early next month.
“That update might be a good time to have the conversation that you want to see so you can kind of get a report of what the committee is doing,” McKenna said.
The meeting Perkins attended was more a thought exercise, as opposed to being thought provoking, McKenna said. He said that other Facility Committee meetings are usually more business-oriented and work-related.
Perkins said he is fine with the update. He said he was asked about what was going on at the committee meetings by some people and that is why he went.
“So just sharing that with you, but I’m happy to have that discussion at a later date as you have suggested,” Perkins said.
McKenna said he isn’t putting the meeting off indefinitely and that new reports on the committee are coming.
In a previous meeting, Superintendent of Schools Laura Nelson outlined three possible scenarios as part of the third phase of the project.
In scenario one, which is based on projected enrollment, closing a school is not practical through the 2020-21 school year, she said. Gilbert H. Middle School would be used to house grades seven and eight, and West Running Brook Middle School would be used to house grades five and six. The first scenario also includes considering consolidating all kindergarten classes and Derry Early Education Preschool Program(DEEP) at Derry Village Elementary School and then organizing grades one through four at three elementary schools. There are five elementary schools in the district: Earnest P. Barka, Derry Village, East Derry Memorial, Grinnell and South Range.
In the second scenario, which is based on projected enrollment, closing a school is not practical thru 2020-21 school year. Gilbert H. Hood would be used to house grade seven and eight, DEEP would remain at Hood, and West Running Brook would house grades five and six. Then all kindergarten classes through grade four would be consolidated in four elementary schools. The report did not list a school to be closed.
Scenario three, the last scenario, is also based on projected enrollment and an elementary school could be closed in school year 2019-20 school year. This scenario keeps the current arrangement, with grades k-8 in the elementary schools and grades six through eight at West Running Brook and Gilbert H. Hood. This plan calls for consolidating the five elementary schools into four schools. Again, the report didn’t list a school to be closed.
Now that the facilities report on possible scenarios is complete, administrators are moving on to the third phase of the project.
Along with possibly closing a school, officials are also considering redistricting. Nelson said this process involves taking the boundaries of all of the streets and “shifting those boundaries as to which school the children would attend.”
For example, if a child lives on a particular street in town and attends a particular school, the child could be attending a different school through redistricting, Nelson said.
If a decision is made to redistrict, some work will take up to a year and year and a half to organize, Nelson said.