By Ann Needle
The Nashoba School Committee agreed at its March 16 meeting to put any plans to expand Nashoba Regional High School on hold for now. They also took another look at the proposed 2016/17 calendar, but came away with questions.
The SC voted unanimously not to apply for state funds next month to help expand the crowded high school. This follows the NRHS Space Task Force’s recommendation earlier this month that the superintendent go ahead and submit a statement of interest to the MA School Building Authority by its April 8 deadline.
The Task Force’s Bob Czekanski of Bolton highlighted some of the recommendations from the two years of the Task Force’s work to the SC earlier this month, including more classrooms and renovation of the Science labs. While the state recommends high schools operate at 85 percent or less of their capacities, NRHS is at 93 percent capacity.
But, at its March 16 meeting, the School Committee voiced doubts that Nashoba should file an SOI so soon.
The meeting began with Citizens’ Comments. Stow Board of Selectmen Chair Don Hawkes — also a Space Task Force voting member — stressed that he strongly agrees with the Task Force’s findings on NRHS’s space needs. However, noting that he was the Task Force’s only dissenting vote on recommending the April SOI filing, Hawkes maintained that going ahead so quickly, without a thorough explanation to the towns of NRHS’s needs, could jeopardize public support.
SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton agreed, maintaining that part of the reason the borrowing for the proposed revamp in 2012 of the NRHS Science labs did not receive her town’s approval was because many residents felt the project was thrust in front of them before they could learn more.
While the Task Force made a compelling case for expanding the high school, Lancaster SC Rep. Kathy Codianne urged the SC to wait on filing an SOI until the state’s next deadline in January 2017. “But even if we don’t get the support of the MSBA, we’ve got to do something,” she added. The SC discussed the possibility of putting together some “road shows” before that 2017 filing date, traveling among Nashoba’s three towns to explain the need.
At the SC’s suggestion, Romasco said she would put together an advisory committee of both SC members and community volunteers after May elections to help organize the public forums on the potential project.
Late Starts Questioned
Though popular with Nashoba families and staff, the later starts to some school days at NRHS may have limits. The proposed 2016/17 school year calendar calls for 12 of these days at the high school. Early starts were launched this year to help give teachers more planning time, with a nod toward research showing that later high school start times are healthier for teens.
Though the NRHS community has reportedly been happy with the late starts, Lorraine Romasco said some parents have expressed concern that the days may take too much time away from student learning. However, the 12 proposed late starts would be a drop from this year’s 18. (School starts 2 hours later in the morning, but ends at the same time as on a normal day.)
Curtis Bates noted that the state requires 990 hours of classroom time in a school year, and he will double-check to assure the proposal for next year meets those standards. Meanwhile, Parry Graham is slated to speak at the SC’s April 6 meeting on the value of the late starts, Bates said.
Another change proposed for next school year is to make the day before Thanksgiving a half-day, rather than a full day off. Pointing out that Thanksgiving is the most hectic travel holiday of the year, Romasco suggested calling off school that Wednesday, and instead making Friday, December 23, a half-day rather than a vacation day.
The SC is scheduled to vote on the calendar April 6.
The district received 22 applications for the superintendent’s job, which search partner the MA Association of School Committees said was the biggest response it has seen lately among districts seeking a superintendent, Romasco reported. She added that the MASC also called the overall candidate pool for the Nashoba job “strong.”
As one of the SC representatives to the district’s Search Committee, SC Rep. Neal Darcy of Bolton explained that the Committee would invite nine of these candidates in for interviews this week. In narrowing down the candidates, Darcy commented, “I think we’re going to have a hard time.”