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School Needs Discussed at Tri-Town

| March 12, 2014

By Ann NeedleWEB Nashoba Sign  092612

The short- and long-term needs of the Nashoba Regional School District were the spotlight of last Wednesday’s Tri-Town meeting at Thayer Library in Lancaster. Officials from Nashoba’s three towns, along with several Nashoba School Committee members, also heard highlights of some major financial changes in store for Minuteman High School.

Nasboba Superintendent Michael Wood explained to officials why potential FY 2015 assessments to each town have increased more than the proposed budg-
et. If voted in, Nashoba’s 2014/15 budget would go up about 3.7% over this year. Meanwhile, Stow’s assessment would rise 5.9%, Bolton’s 4.8%, and Lancaster’s by 4.5%.

The biggest influence behind the assessment hike is that state funding for local schools continues to be tepid, Wood said. The state-assigned local minimum contribution to schools by cities and towns is up, Chapter 70 funding is flat, and Nashoba is expecting the state’s contribution to regional transportation to remain the same, he noted.

However, School Committee Chair Nancy Federspiel of Bolton reminded attendees that administration suggested several areas where the budget might be trimmed. The Committee was due to vote on the final budget at its March 11 meeting.

Looking ahead, Wood outlined the 5-year capital spending plans for the district. At press time, the 2014/15 budget contains $362,500 in capital repairs on Nashoba property. He stressed that, as with the coming year’s capital repairs, the approximately $787,000 in capital spending Nashoba plans for beyond 2014/15 also should fit into the district budget, with no borrowing called for.

As for 2014/15, Wood pointed to the most pressing — and expensive — of the capital plans as repairing a large section of Nashoba Regional High School’s roof, in the main building, at about $175,000. To help with the cost, Wood reported the district has applied for a grant from the MA School Building Authority, which could cover up to half the bill.

Other work planned for the budgeted $362,500 includes repairs to the NRHS baseball and softball fields, adding more soil to even out the ground (Wood remarked, “Right now, if you’re at home plate, you can see the pitcher’s knees.”); along with windows, HVAC, and locker repairs, plus added security cameras, at the high school.

Looking at concerns over potential overcrowding at NRHS, Wood estimated the school’s Space Study Task Force should have a report in June on needs and possible solutions.

Minuteman Looks to Building Project

With Minuteman planning to shore up its outdated facility, Superintendent Dr. Edward Bouquillon and Minuteman School Committee Chair Alice DeLuca of Stow highlighted the vocational and technical high school’s map for getting construction going.

As reported in the February 12 issue of The Stow Independent, first up is to get a majority of Minuteman’s 16 member cities and towns to vote in favor of proposed changes to the school’s regional agreement. Bouquillon noted that the changes should be in members’ Town Meeting warrants this spring.

Bouquillon explained that, under the current regional agreement, for the building project to happen, all 16 members would need to vote in favor. But, under the new agreement, if this vote was not unanimous, Minuteman would have the right to call a district-wide election, where the majority vote would settle the question. Committee member votes would will be weighted on a rolling 4-year average of number of students at the school in the town for policy decisions. The votes will not be weighted for budget items.

The building project currently is in the feasibility study phase, with Bouquillon estimating the project should go to schematic design in a year. Minuteman has set a target date of 2016 to put a construction project up for members’ votes. In terms of project costs, Bouquillon estimated the “worst-case scenario” at a $120 million total, with the state hopefully paying at least 40% of that amount.

For a more detailed explanation of the proposed agreement changes, visit minuteman.org

In other discussion at Tri-Town, Wood reiterated why the district continues to rent meeting space at Lancaster’s Mary Rowlandson School to a church group. Complaints came in to Nashoba after the church group prominently featured a photo of the school in its advertisements. Wood said the group has since promised to pull the ads. As for continuing to rent to the group, Wood noted, “It’s not the first church we’ve rented to; we can’t discriminate.”

Stow Selectman Don Hawkes asked Nashoba to re-consider how after-school “late” buses are timed to leave the high school. These leave the school at 4:30pm and 6pm, dropping students at several strategic locations in each of the three district towns. Hawkes complained that his daughter often just misses the 4:30pm bus, because of the timing of when the choral group practice lets out. He maintained, “It seems like these buses are primarily timed to the athletic programs.” Wood said he would look into the timing.

The next Tri-Town meeting is slated for the Houghton Building in Bolton (697 Main St.), April 2 at 7pm.

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