By Ann Needle
As the Nashoba Regional High School Space Task Force winds down its work, it used its November 10 meeting to identify the areas of the high school that would be critical to fix, even if the building is not expanded and renovated.
Task Force Chair Bob Czekanski of Bolton distributed a seven-page worksheet listing potential areas to address in an NRHS expansion. These ranged from various HVAC issues throughout the building, to additional space. The Task Force began prioritizing each item for a possible building project, first identifying which items can be considered critical.
“Critical” was defined as items that must be targeted because of health, safety, legal, or accreditation issues. “Critical stuff drives the project,” Czekanski elaborated, with NRHS Principal Dr. Parry Graham adding that he saw these items as those that must be taken care of, even if a building project never happens.
Items not deemed critical will be assigned at future meetings to the categories of “important” (areas that should be addressed because the benefits to the entire student body are large and easy to understand); “recommended” (areas that should be addressed, but the benefits are not spread across all students); and “desirable” (areas that should be addressed but are not directly affecting student performance).
Highlights of items deemed critical included HVAC issues such as the home team locker room, which gets its air from the upper gym; and the classrooms below the Media Center, which NRHS Director of Guidance Jodi Specht called “so cold, I have teachers wearing long underwear and teaching in gloves.”
In Athletics the home team locker rooms are an issue due to the septic system sometimes backing up. The weight “room”—a caged-off area at the rear of the upper gym—is so small it makes for a safety hazard, and it cannot be used when something else is (often) going on in the gym.
Space needs also topped the critical list, including the need for another Science Lab. Most other critical space needs were related to lack of privacy.
The Task Force called for another office and/or conference area in the administrative area. Graham commented that the offices there—including his own—must often be used as conference rooms. The task force also recommended separate rooms for therapeutic special education needs and students in all-day suspension. In Guidance, there should be a conference room for students to meet with college recruiters (not currently available). And, the crowded cafeteria needs to be expanded.
Also making the critical list was putting in more interior security cameras, given they currently are only in hallways and stairwells, rather than all common areas.
Along with the critical list, Graham estimated NRHS needs three to four more general-use classrooms to get down to or below capacity, if the number of students remains steady. Superintendent Michael Wood suggested looking into flexible classrooms that can be converted for several uses.
The Long Term Picture
Graham also offered a glimpse of what types of space may be needed for a more diverse curriculum. Growing interest in Journalism could mean getting more flexible space for telecommunications needs, while Dance and Theater classes currently use the auditorium, but need their own space. Also, the Business Department and DECA marketing chapter have grown, calling for a larger school store, he said.
Longer term, Graham said he would like to install an Early Childhood program, complete with a child-care center where NRHS students could intern. It also would accommodate faculty families. He mentioned that a similar daycare at Hudson High School has become popular.
In estimating just how many students will be using any classrooms, Bob Czekanski reported that the Task Force’s request for services, calling for projections on the number of NRHS students over the next decade, was answered by four firms. The Task Force should have a recommendation on which to choose at its December 10 meeting, he said.
The Task Force agreed that any formal recommendations to the School Committee and the towns on how to expand NRHS will need to come in the next few months, given the MA School Building Authority’s deadline for submitting a project statement of intent is in March. Wood noted that the MSBA tends to take a few months before choosing projects for the next phase, so it is unlikely there would be any votes called for on the high school at May town meetings.