By Ann Needle
At last Thursday’s Nashoba Space Task Force meeting, the district detailed what it might cost to keep the Nashoba Regional High School building running in the next several years. Charged with identifying what should be done to expand and update an overcrowded NRHS, the task force also took time to look at what the district could do beyond the basics.
Nashoba Director of Facilities Bill Cleary presented his 10-year plan for capital improvements, stressing that the more than $3.8 million in items on the list is the least Nashoba must do to keep the high school status quo. The most expensive of these, estimated at $650,000, is replacing the roof over the gym lobby, Music classes, and Science classrooms.
One item Cleary called out as vital is a window replacement project, which begins in 2015/16 with replacement of some windows with poor insulation, especially around the Science classrooms. The district estimated that project’s cost at $535,000.
Other top-priority building projects Cleary noted for the next decade included replacing the high school’s two boilers (about $36,000 total), repairing the worn-down baseball and softball fields ($210,000), expanding the overcrowded cafeteria ($130,000), upgrading the air flow capacity of the Computer labs as they continue adding components ($50,000), and re-configuring the Guidance suite to carve out more private space ($225,000).
Guidance Director Jodi Specht said the district may also want to consider adding an extra room there or elsewhere in the high school, where a growing number of students with serious anxiety issues could quietly regroup.
Though Cleary cautioned that the building probably would not last another 50 years simply by sticking to the capital plan, he stressed that the plan should keep the building going up to another 20 years. Cleary noted he has not found any major damage, such as cracks in the foundation, that would shorten that expected life span.
Though task force members agreed that the maintenance report was good news, the task force’s Bob Czekanski cautioned that unexpected items could come up. For instance, when the New England Association of Schools and Colleges last evaluated Concord-Carlisle High School, it cited that district for not having running water in its modular classrooms. (The district has since built a new high school.) Though Czekanski said he does not know how many modulars CCHS had, NRHS is about to get two modular classrooms from the former Pompositicutt School.
Beyond Capital Plans
Bill Clearly also presented a list of potential building projects (but no cost estimates) that could help expand NRHS as it renovates. These included adding a STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math) classroom and lab, along with a 1,440 sq. ft. Science lab; and remodeling the lower-level Science lab suite. Nashoba launched serious discussions about expanding the high school after district towns voted down plans to begin renovating the high school’s outdated Science labs.
Also listed as potential projects were the upgrading of the high school’s lobby areas, remodeling the gym locker rooms, and trading some Media Center space for more classrooms.
Another task to be finished is figuring out how to measure any impact of the high school space crunch on student learning, said NRHS Principal Dr. Parry Graham. One example Graham pointed to was the impact of students not being able to take the 5-credit Science course (with more lab time) they wanted — with not enough space for NRHS to offer more — opting instead for the 4-credit versions. Graham maintained that an informal look at some recent grades revealed students in 5-credit Science tended to have higher Science grades and test scores.
In potentially filing a statement of interest for a project with the state by the end of January 2016, the task force’s Heather LeBlanc estimated the task force should submit a final report, with recommendations, to the Nashoba School Committee by September. This should leave some room for the SC to research how to proceed, she added.
Meanwhile, Bob Czekanski said he would still like to see some formal projections of student growth in the district, and how certain changes in curriculum have impacted space needs. He agreed with SC Rep. Lynn Colletti’s urging that the SC also discuss whether NRHS should grow under its current definition of a “comprehensive” school (with varying courses designed for many types of students), or as a “standard” school (stressing the core academic subjects).
The next task force meeting is planned for Wednesday, May 27, at 7pm. The task force will meet at NRHS for a tour of the school that stresses a look at some of the areas recommended for repairs and upgrades by Facilities. Also, the task force is planning to present its just-completed interim report #2 at the June 3 SC meeting.