Minuteman Regional Making Changes

By Ann Needle
The building has not had a major renovation since it opened 40 years ago, so few dispute that Minuteman Regional Vocational High School needs a facelift. With that may come a big change in Minutmen’s enrollment numbers.

Minuteman Looks to Lower Enrollment Numbers
For Minuteman, the potential cost is still a big question, given the Minuteman Building Committee has revised its projected enrollment for construction purposes downward since last winter. As of February 2014, the estimate for about an 800-student school ranged from $41 million for site repairs, to $112 million for a new building. Since then, the projected enrollment was lowered to 628 students.

A June 2014 Building Committee report explained that the drop was based on renovating Minuteman into a school with shorter, more focused—and fewer—classes, and what it hopes will be a more selective admissions process. Also, Alice DeLuca, Stow’s representative to the Minuteman School Committee and a member of the Building Committee, remarked that member communities would find a lower cost more acceptable.

DeLuca noted that the Building Committee’s Educational Program Subcommitee is reviewing course offerings based on 628 students. The project schedule calls for Minuteman to submit the course plan to the MA School Building Authority by January 2015.

A Clash of School Projects?
For voters in Nashoba’s towns, the vote on Minuteman could come side-by-side with a vote on supporting funding for any plans to expand Nashoba Regional High School. As the district’s high school approaches capacity, the NRHS Space Study Task Force has been looking at what would be the best solution for alleviating the crowding.

According to Minuteman’s School Building Committee, the school is aiming to have a construction project for the Lexington building in front of member’s town meetings by spring 2016. The project is currently in the feasibility study phase.

At the Aug. 25 Bolton Advisory Committee meeting, Bob Czekanski, Bolton’s representative to the Space Study Task Force, told the BAC that any building proposal for NRHS also could come up in spring 2016. Czekanski stressed, however that, at this point, this is just an estimate. (See Superintendent Michael Wood’s letter on page 3 for his persepctive on the NRHS space study.)

Saving with the State
“By being a part of an MSBA project, we save a lot,” DeLuca emphasized of the agency in charge of managing the state’s funding for school building projects. Earlier this year, School Committee Vice Chair Carrie Flood said Minuteman is hoping the state will fund about 40 percent of any project.

It is this possible state funding DeLuca said she hoped would help propel the 16 member Minuteman towns to support project funding. “Every time we go to repair the Minuteman building, we spend town funds,” she commented. “Any building project could get state funding, taking some of the burden off our members.”

Another potential key to getting the approval Minuteman needs would be convincing its 16 member towns to vote in its proposed, new regional agreement. That way, it may not need to have all its communities approve the construction spending.

With the current agreement, the school’s major decisions—especially on capital spending—call for approval by voters in every member town. Under the new agreement, among other changes, voters in each member town still would need to approve new debt. However, if Minuteman does not get all members to vote it in, the School Committee then would have the option of initiating a districtwide election, where the majority vote would determine the outcome.

For members with smaller enrollments, opting out of Minuteman also would be easier. Under the current agreement, members who want to opt out of Minuteman need the approval of all fellow members: The new agreement would allow them to leave unless a simple majority of other members votes against the move.

DeLuca reported that, so far, 10 members approved the new agreement, one rejected it, and five will vote on it this spring. (Stow approved the proposed agreement at May TM.)

As for where Nashoba towns should be putting their money, DeLuca reflected, “I’ve always been a big supporter of spending on our schools. Stow has two excellent high schools our students can choose from, and it needs to take care of both of those high schools.”