Board weighs where to site prekindergarten, district offices in AHS rebuild

8:30 a.m. high school start time considered for next year

Two possibilities for the locations of prekindergarten and district offices, during construction and after the completion of the new high school, consumed much of the attention of the School Committee at its Jan. 10 meeting.

School Committee logoThe location of both are under consideration because using the former Parmenter School, a town-owned building, could reduce construction costs at high school -- estimated since June to be $308 million.

In a separate matter, the committee saw a preliminary 2019-2020 school calendar, proposing an 8:30 a.m. start time for the high school, Gibbs and Ottoson. See details below.

HMFH Architects, the Cambridge firm hired to design the new school, was also retained to assess the relative costs and viability of moving the district offices to the now partly vacant Parmenter or to maintain the offices and Menotomy Preschool in the high school though the state is not expected to reimbursement their costs. The Mass. School Building Authority has considered neither educationally necessary and not eligible for an expected 40-percent reimbursement. See the Parmenter diagrams here >> 

Consultant: OK for temp site

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie reported about the space analysis focusing on the vacant part of the building. HMFH concluded  that the space would work for temporary relocation but not as a permanent site. Bodie said the architectural consultants opposed the permanent site because the school department projected needing two more classrooms in the future, which would be difficult to fit in the Parmenter's vacant space, as HMFH determined.

Committee members Jane Morgan and Len Kardon asked for more information about the HMFH recommendation. Viewing the architectural drawing, Morgan questioned whether there was room for two more classrooms in the building. Kardon pointed out the consultants did not consider the entire building and the space now rented by the Arlington Children's Center might furnish enough space.

Committee Chair Kirsi Allison-Ampe asked that the committee move on and consider the “financials,” which proved to be more complicated. See the costs if Menotomy moves to Parmenter >> 

Cost of renovation neglected

As Kardon and Morgan pointed out, the HMFH numbers, which found the permanent location in the high school less expensive, neglected to include the cost of renovation for temporary relocation to the Parmenter. When those are added in, the cost is equivalent.

While Morgan assured the committee that she personally favored the high school location for prekindergarten, she stressed the need to have the correct information.

Moving on to the district offices, Bodie noted these HMFH estimates: Those for keeping them at the high school are $5.5 million to $6.5 million, while relocating them to the Parmenter would cost a total of $9.3 million. At its Dec. 18 meeting, the high school building committee were told that town/school IT, the town comptroller and town/school facilities offices would be moved out of the high school to other locations and were not included in the cost estimates.

At the end of this discussion, the committee decided to hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, after the final cost estimate is determined by the construction company and the architectural firm. Estimates are due Jan. 28. See a timeline here >> 

Kardon recommended doing a cost analysis of reducing common spaces -- hallways, locker room space, breakout spaces -- since Belmont reduced cost for its new high school by making some reduction in such spaces. Member Jeff Thielman replied that this “would be an educational decision” and informed the committee if the costs match what was sent to MSBA that any further reduction would only be a “philosophical decision” of the building committee.

Preliminary calendar: AHS 8:30 start time

Bodie introduced the 2019-2020 calendar with “major dates” included. Additional release times, conferences, etc., will be included later. See the proposed calendare >> 

The start date for next years will be Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, for all schools. Elementary schools will continue to have early release. The kindergartens will have an open house the first day; one-half of the class would attend a full day on Wednesday, and the other half a full day Thursday. The entire kindergarten class will have a full day Friday. Parents will be notified later about which group their child is assigned.

Winter-break dates raised issues. Christmas is on a Wednesday, and customarily, because of some union contracts, the day of Christmas Eve is also off. Should students attend school Monday, Dec. 23? Since the heat is reduced on weekends, the school department decided Friday, Dec. 20, would be the last day before winter break.

Abiding by the state requirement of 180 days of school, Bodie said the last day of school would be June 18, with five required snow days to be use if needed.

The School Committee passed the school calendar unanimously on first reading. There will be another reading and vote.

Bodie brought up the possibility of an 8:30 a.m. start time for the high school, Gibbs and Ottoson, a proposal that had been favorably received by teachers and parents in last fall. She reported that now half of the high schools in Middlesex League now have a later start time and have adjusted athletic schedules. The committee decided to do further outreach to the community before voting on a new start time in the next month.

Preliminary school budget, priorities

Bodie and the Chief Financial Officer Michael Mason Jr. gave an overview of the school department budget. Read the Jan. 10 budget documents >> The committee voted “to acknowledge the town contribution of $58,492,057,” with Kardon abstaining. The total school budget is $70,375,639, an increase of $4,122,617.

Much of the committee’s discussion revolved around how to use the $1,262,624 in the budget not yet allocated and to address needs presented by the principals and Arlington Education Association and how to prioritize them. Among those expressed by committee members were meeting further enrollment costs for teachers and staff, balancing meeting the needs at various levels of schooling with an emphasis on the high school and a full-time science director.

Bodie announce she would be meeting with the principals to have them turn their lists into priorities. The budget subcommittee will also be meeting to discussion the priorities more specifically.

The upcoming budget meetings are as follows: Superintendent’s budget proposal presentation, Feb. 14; Budget hearing, Feb. 28; and final vote, March 14.

Following the budget, the committee went into closed session to discuss the superintendent’s contract. 


Dec. 29, 2018: Elementary principals' staffing pleas draw committee questions  

Dec. 19, 2018: Principals make budget requests, and committee seeks priorities


This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published  Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.