Questions Posed by the Community

Center School

Q1:
What are the key challenges with the current state of Center School?
A: The Center School facility presents several challenges to the delivery of a safe and comprehensive elementary education for our young students. The location of the building poses parking, and traffic  issues  for students and visitors which raise safety concerns in the center of town.  The age of the building presents significant challenges to the delivery of heat and electricity throughout  the building. The classroom space available for instruction is inadequate for the efficient delivery of curriculum for our students. The Center School has been deemed an obsolete facility by the Massachusetts State Building Authority (MSBA).
 
Q2: What grades are currently serviced at Center School?
A: Fee-based full day Kindergarten, 1/2 day Kindergarten, and 1st grade.

Q3: How many students attend Center school?
A: Of the 1587 Pre-Kindergarten to 5th grade elementary school students in Hopkinton, 459 attend school at Center School.

Q4: Is an increase in future student enrollment anticipated for current grade levels?
A:  Yes. The first step in the process of working with the MSBA was to establish elementary enrollment projections through 2017.  The agreed upon enrollment, which incorporates the anticipated enrollment from the Legacy Farms development, does not show a significant increase in student enrollment.  

Q5: When was Center School built?
A: The main building was built in 1928. Two additions where added in 1950, and 1986.
 
Q6: Are there any structural concerns with school?
A: There have been no significant structural issues identified with the current building.  However, there are several physical constraints: 
  • Although the building has a new boiler, the distribution system for heating and ventilation is extremely old, which results in rooms being uncomfortably hot or cold for learning. Several rooms cannot be heated above 60 degrees, forcing students and teachers to wear coats, hats, and mittens in the classroom.
  • Many rooms have windows that cannot be opened or that are in serious disrepair. The condition of the windows results in the loss of heat in the winter and very hot classrooms on warmer days. 
  • The electrical system cannot handle today’s technologies, which results in tripped fuses daily, the need to reboot machines in class, and the loss of student learning time and work.
  • Inadequate toilet facilities for staff – 3 water closets for 70 females.
Districting

Q1: What is difference between districting and longer grade spans?
A: Both terms relate to how grades are configured in schools. Currently, grade spans in Hopkinton are two grades per building (K-1 at Center/2-3 at Elmwood/4-5 at Hopkins).  Students from all over Hopkinton attend each of these schools. Increasing the number of grades in a school (i.e., creating longer grade spans),  can be most effectively and efficiently accomplished through districting. Districting will involve the grouping of the town’s elementary school population into 3 "neighborhood" K-5 schools.

Q2: Is districting a goal of the Strategic Plan of the Hopkinton Schools?
A: Yes, the Strategic Plan calls for the creation of regions or districts to facilitate longer grade spans.  The Strategic Plan was adopted in 2009.  It was developed with significant community input and review. Per the Strategic Plan, " 3C. Priority Initiative: District Configuration Goal: By September of 2012, the school district will be organized by regions to facilitate longer grade spans, reduce the number of transitions among schools for students and increase student learning." (Note: The initiative is directly linked to the outcome of the Center School Building Project in 3B.) See School Committee Strategic Plan for additional information:
http://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/newweb2/PDF/SPapproved092009.pdf
 
Q3: What are the potential benefits of districting?
A There are several benefits of districting:
  • Increases in overall student achievement
  • Increased staff accountability
  • Increased time on instruction as the reduction in transitions reduces the class time necessary to prepare for transition
  • Gained efficiencies in teacher communication and use of resources
  • Increases ability of teachers to meet with teachers at other elementary schools since start and release times will be the same for all three schools
  • Reduces the number of educational transitions, which research indicates are difficult for students, particularly students with special needs
  • Improves staff ability to provide interventions for students needing academic counseling, remedial support, or special education services given staff familiarity with students over a longer period of time.
  • Builds stronger relationships between parents and the school since students will remain in a school for a longer period of time.
  • Increased opportunities for leadership and mentoring roles for older students with younger students
  • Builds stronger relationship among students as they will know more than a few students in each new class as they do now.  This will result in stronger, more lasting friendships among a larger group of students.  Right now students may only have a few students in a class from the previous year.
  • Reduces the amount of time parents with multiple elementary age children spend getting students to school and waiting for them in the afternoon.
  • Allows the school district to move from a three tiered to a two tiered transportation system, which should result transportation savings of $150,000 per year.
  • Provides the school district an opportunity to revisit school start times for middle and high school students.
  • Reduces traffic in the center of town, since each school will have only 8 buses transporting students via a smaller and more local route, rather than 24 buses dropping students at every school, requiring many to drive through the center of town.
See School Committee Fact Sheet for additional information: http://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/newweb2/HESBC/NeighborhoodSchoolsFactSheet.pdf
 
Q4: What challenges could exist for students if we move to districts?
A:  There will be challenges and changes to transition through. Separation from friends, grouping students by neighborhoods prior to the move, and determining if students will be allowed to complete their last year at Hopkins are some of the challenges we will need to address in creating the transition plan.  Overall, however, we are expecting significantly fewer challenges for students than they experience now with multiple transitions. 
Concern has been expressed about students meeting a large number of students as they move into Middle School.  However our middle school model focuses on making the transition to Middle School easier for the students.  In sixth grade, the teams are designed to keep the same classroom of students together for all academic classes.  This allows them to become comfortable with the new school while remaining with a fixed group of students.  This would be a similar transition to what all our elementary students experience now as they move from grade to grade.  In seventh and eight grade students continue on teams, although the students in the academic classes do not remain constant.  This again, allows them to meet a few more students, but still have a consistent, but broader group of students to interact with.   The team model is designed to make the transitions for students easier during this difficult developmental period in the lives of the students. 
Overall the benefits of districting far outweigh the challenges.
 
Q6: What challenges could exist for teachers/staff/administration/district if we move to districts?
A: There will be challenges and changes to transition through.  However, the work that has been done in the district over the past five years have positioned us well to move to districts.
Currently all teachers in a grade are all co-located which facilitates collaboration, best practice sharing, and training opportunities for that grade level.   However, it is extremely difficult to collaborate on vertical integration of the curriculum.  Not only are teachers in different buildings, but the start and end times of school are different so it is difficult to meet before or after school.  The district has recently completed a multi year development of a standard curriculum, which was developed by the teachers.  This curriculum is now posted on a website.  The district has also hired curriculum coordinators.  This will also allow the district to maintain a consistent, guaranteed curriculum between all three elementary schools.
 
Q7: How much will it cost to district the town?  Would this include costs associated with creating parity within the 3 schools?  How much will that cost to create parity and maintain it on an annual basis?
A: Making the transition to neighborhood schools can begin as soon as the new school opens. Achieving parity and making decisions going forward with respect to parity across  the elementary schools will be a multiphase process much like the town's ADA compliance strategy. We anticipate a one time cost to the operating budget of $135,000 to provide equal education supports like library materials, leveled readers, software licenses etc. across all schools as well as the moving costs. It also includes money to modify the bathrooms and lockers as needed. This cost will be offset by an annual savings of approximately $125,000, primary due to savings in transportation. These estimates were determined following conversations with districts that have recently moved to neighborhood schools. Although we may want to modify the kindergarten classrooms at Hopkins and Elmwood at some point in the future, these classrooms will be an improvement to the classrooms at Center School.  This benefits the kindergarten and first grade students.  All students will have access to better library space, computer labs, music and art rooms, cafeterias and assembly spaces, gym space and safe playgrounds.
School Committee Districting Fact Sheet states "The school district anticipates no major costs associated with districting"  See School Committee Fact Sheet for additional information: http://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/newweb2/HESBC/NeighborhoodSchoolsFactSheet.pdf
 
Q8: Have the funds required for parity been secured?  Will these funds require another town vote?
A: Not yet. In our initial proposal to the MSBA we sought funding for the improvements to the kindergarten classrooms needed at Elmwood and Hopkins.  The MSBA chose not to include those funds in the new elementary school project.   We can follow the MSBA process for seeking funds for these improvements.   This would ultimately require approval at Town Meeting and on a ballot.
 
Q9: When was the decision to district the Hopkinton elementary schools?  Was it voted on at town meeting?
A: No town-wide vote was required or held regarding districting. Districting decisions Educational programming decisions fall under the responsibility of the School Department and School Committee and are the sole responsibility of the School Committee. In 2002, however, several community forums were held to discuss the issue, and the School Committee subsequently voted to move to neighborhood schools. In 2005, the School Committee also presented an article at Town Meeting requesting $3 million for architectural drawings for a new Early Childhood Center and grade 1-5 school at Fruit Street, and for Elmwood Improvements. This article was approved by the voters at Town Meeting and at the election. To gain additional information, in 2008-09 the School Committee hired a consultant to help the district develop a new Strategic Plan. During this process, focus groups were held with a 31 member Strategic Planning Team, an internal Steering Committee, parents, and staff from each school. A top priority among all the groups was changing the schools’ grade configuration to longer grade spans.
Per the School Committee Fact Sheet  "February 28, 2002, the School Committee voted to support neighborhood schools at the elementary level"
 
Financial Costs

Q1: What is the projected cost of the new Fruit Street School?
A: $38,508,088, of which the town will be responsible for $23,154,225.
 
Q2: What % and costs would MSBA fund?
A: 44.7% of $33,296,852 (eligible costs) = $14,883,693 would be reimbursed by the MSBA if the town approves the project at STM and at the ballot.
http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/sites/default/files/edit-contentfile/2011%20Board%20Meetings/February%209,%202011/Hopkinton%20PSB%20Memo_2_9_11.pdf
 
Q3: What % and $ would the Town of Hopkinton be responsible for?
A: Approximately 61% of the total costs = $23,154,225 would need to be funded by the Town of Hopkinton.
 
Q4: What are the costs that will be incurred to widen Fruit Street/move fire hydrants/telephone poles, etc.,?
A: This work is not anticipated to be required with the construction of the new school.  Because the school will serve the local area, bus traffic may be reduced on Fruit Street.
 
Q5: Are there other costs expected from building the new school outside the current proposal and warrant?
A: No
 
Q6: What is the annual increase in operational costs of the new Fruit Street School versus Center School?
A: The Feasibility Study projects an increase in operational costs of $176,958 at Fruit Street. Included in this projection was $40,600 for a full-time Assistant Principal.  If we stay with our current administrative model, this cost would not be incurred since we currently have half-time Assistant Principals or a full-time management assistant in the elementary schools. The remaining increases are projected for maintenance and utilities and can be attributed to the increased size of the school. The estimates were modeled on the Hopkins School but are likely to be lower than projected since the new school should be more energy efficient. 
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=aG9wa2ludG9uLmsxMi5tYS51c3xoZXNiY3xneDoxOWVhMGUyNGMyZTFhNWY0
 
Q7: What are the projected costs to bring Elmwood School & Hopkins School to a ready state for housing grades K-5?  What do these costs include?
A:  We anticipate a one- time cost of $135,000 to do this.  This estimate includes the cost of providing equal education supports like library materials, leveled readers, software licenses etc across all schools as well as the moving costs.   It also includes money to modify the bathrooms and lockers as needed.  These estimates were determined following conversations with districts who have recently moved to neighborhood schools
 
Q8: What are the projected costs to create initial parity between Elmwood, Hopkins and Fruit Street Schools?  When will these costs be incurred? What do these costs include?
A:  Besides the expenses listed below, the only work that needs to be done to create parity between the schools would be to modify seven classrooms to make them more in line with traditional kindergarten spaces.  The estimated costs for this would be $1.4 million at Hopkins and $3.5 million at Elmwood.   Those costs were presented to the MSBA in the Feasibility Study reviewed in July, but the MSBA decided that the improvements to Hopkins and Elmwood would not be part of this project.  We are able to seek further funding from the MSBA for this work.
 
Q9: What other significant maintenance expenses (over $20k) do the 5 schools anticipate in the next 10 years?
A. We are currently estimating that $8.5 million of work is needed to make improvements to the Elmwood facility.  Other maintenance costs are listed on our Capital Improvements document.
 
Q10: How much of an increase will taxpayers see in their tax bills (and when, what years) as a result of the new school?
A:  The Town Treasurer will release this information the week of 2-22-11.
 
Q11: How much of an increase will taxpayers see in their tax bills (and when, what years) as a result of upgrades to Elmwood & Hopkins, costs to widen Fruit Street, costs to create initial parity between the three schools?
A:  There will be no costs to widen Fruit Street due to the construction of the new school.
 
Q12: Since districting is a major requirement of how the new school was planned and designed, are the costs associated with districting for all (3) schools included in the total request at town meeting and at the ballot?
A: The costs of building the new Fruit St. school are included in the warrant article.  No additional funds for Elmwood or Hopkins to upgrade schools for districting and parity are included.  Those costs were presented to the MSBA in the Feasibility Study reviewed in July, but the MSBA decided that the improvements to Hopkins and Elmwood would not be part of this project.  We are able to seek further funding from the MSBA for this work.
 
Q13: Per the proposal, the DPW garage will need to be removed to execute the new school plan.  Has this been approved by the TM, DPW and the BOS?  Is there a plan to replace the garage?  What are the expected costs?
A: Yes, the DPW garage needs to be removed to execute the new school plan and that has been approved by the TM, DPW and BOS. The DPW Garage was a temporary use of a building that was vacated when the previous owner left the site.  The cost to demolish the garage is expected to be $100,000 and is included in the budget of the new school.  The need to demolish the garage was discussed with the Town Manager, DPW director, Town Engineer and the Board of Selectmen.  All but the DPW are represented on the Elementary School Building Committee.  The DPW is currently exploring options on replacing the garage.
 
Q14: Over the past several years, maintaining optimal teacher-student ratios has been challenging due to resource limitations of the town.   Has there been a study conducted or discussion held concerning what additional stress will be placed on the teacher-student ratios due to the increased tax burden associated with building a new school?
A: The stresses of the increased tax burden are always a concern of the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen, which is why the School Committee is not seeking funding for improvements to Elmwood and Hopkins now. There are no additional operational costs associated with the new school, so we do not anticipate any additional stresses on teacher-student ratios.
 
Q15: What is the expected annual savings in transportation costs with the plan to district the elementary schools?
A: Per school administration statements, an estimated saving of $150,000 per year for transportation will be realized due to districting.
 
Q16: What other significant capital projects will the town may be requesting funds for in the next few years?
A: The School Committee defers this question to the Board of Selectmen.
 
Q17: Has the School Committee, Town Manager, and Board of Selectman developed a multi-year capital budget plan covering all significant anticipated projects that includes the new school?
A:  The School Committee works with the Town through the Capital Improvements Committee, which oversees all capital projects in town, and issues recommendations on all capital articles at Town Meeting.  The schools have always worked closely with the Board of Selectmen, CIC and the Appropriations Committee for all operational and capital needs.
 
School Options
Q1: What criteria was used in developing the options?
A: The HESBC developed options based on available town owned land at the Center School site, the Elmwood School, and the Fruit Street site.  The HESBC primarily looked at options involving additions/renovations to existing schools, a PK/K building in conjunction with a grade 1-5 school, or a PreK-5 school on the various sites.  These options were then evaluated based on the following criteria developed by the HESBC:
 
1. Preferred options should reflect the School Committee’s stated preference for an elementary grades structure of (3) K-5 schools of 3 to 4 streams each, with Pre-K to be located at one of the elementary schools.
 
2.  Preferred options should not put more students on a site than is appropriate, in terms of:
 
        a. Ability to provide for separation of car and bus traffic and adequate parking on site.
        b. Adequate play space on site.
        c. Congestion from school traffic at the site.

3. Preferred options should site neighborhood schools centrally to the neighborhoods they serve.

4. Preferred options should allow implementation with minimum disruption to education.

5. Preferred options must allow for future expansion of the elementary population.

6. Preferred options should not contribute to traffic congestion in the downtown area.

7. Preferred options should not generate excessive bus traffic on rural roads.

8. Preferred options should minimally impact environmentally sensitive sites and should
provide maximum opportunities for sustainable design.

9. Preferred options should be contextually sensitive and should reflect the rural nature of
the community.

10. Preferred options should provide maximum opportunities for community use of building
and site amenities.

11. Preferred options must be demonstrably cost-effective.

See Feasibility Study for more information:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=aG9wa2ludG9uLmsxMi5tYS51c3xoZXNiY3xneDo0NTEwMDI1OTQ5ZmRjMTU0

Q2: How many options were analyzed by the School Building Committee?
A: There were initially thirteen alternative solutions. Five alternatives were reviewed in detail, and two final options were recommended by the HESBC.

Option C1 (renovations and additions to the Center School)
        -Schools District Configuration: PK-5 @ Center, 1-5 @ Elmwood/Hopkins

Option C2 (a new school on the Center site, demolition of the existing facility except for the historic structure)
        -Schools District Configuration: PK-5 @ Center, K-5 @ Elmwood/Hopkins

Option E4 (a new school at the Fruit Street site, Center retired, work at Elmwood and Hopkins as in C2)
        -Schools District Configuration: PK-5 @ Fruit St, K-5 @ Elmwood/Hopkins

Option H1 (renovations and additions to the Center School and a new school at the Fruit Street site)
        -Schools District Configuration: PK/K @ Center, 1-5 @ Elmwood/Hopkins and Fruit St

Option H4 (PK/K and a new 1-5 school at the Fruit Street site)
        -Schools District Configuration: PK-5 @ Fruit St, 1-5 @ Elmwood/Hopkins
   
See Feasibility Study for additional information:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=aG9wa2ludG9uLmsxMi5tYS51c3xoZXNiY3xneDo0NTEwMDI1OTQ5ZmRjMTU0

Q3: How many options were reviewed by the MSBA?
A: Five options were presented, but only two options were recommended by the HESBC to the MSBA in July 2010: Option C1 (renovations and additions to the Center School), and Option E4 (a new school at Fruit Street)
 
Q4: Why did the School Committee recommend a new districted school at Fruit St.?
A:  The HESBC and the School Committee recommended a new district school at Fruit Street because
  • To renovate and build an addition at Center School was more expensive than building a new school at Fruit Street and would cost more to run each year than a new school at Fruit Street.
  • To renovate/expand at Center School would not remove the difficulties of the narrow site which causes safety concerns and traffic and parking congestion in the center of town.
  • There is no space available in the district to temporarily house the Center School students during the period of renovation and/or construction, which would add significant, non-reimbursable expense to the project.
  • Moving all kindergarten to the Fruit Street site posed significant transportation problems as the Fruit Street site is not centrally located and the local roads cannot handle the increase bus traffic a town-wide kindergarten would require.
  • Building a grade based school would not take advantage of the educational benefits provided by neighborhood schools.  The Fruit Street site is also not centrally based and would pose the same traffic problems listed above.
 
Q5: Was the option of modernizing the electrical, the heating, telephones, windows and other environmental systems at Center School within the current footprint analyzed?
A: This option was not put forth as an alternative for review because it did not address the educational space deficiencies of the school.  It also did not address the safety and transporation that the current location poses for the students and community.
The MSBA would not entertain an option that would not address the educational objectives of the school.
 
Q6: Was there a low cost contingency option developed?  Was it presented to the MSBA?
A: The lower cost option was the new school at Fruit Street.  The renovation and addition at Center School was more costly, by $5.8 million in construction costs and had an annual increased operating cost of $328,000 over the operating cost of the school at Fruit Street.  This does not account for the cost of re-locating and housing students during any project on the Center School site.
 
Q9: Was a new Pre-K/K and 1st grade school design option reviewed?
A. Yes, there were several options that included Pre-K/K and 1st grade at Center School and a PreK and K at Fruit Street. The Center School option included renovating the existing structure.  All options were in conjunction with districting Elmwood and Hopkins into grade 2-5 districts.  These options were ruled out because they did not meet the educational goals of the project, resulted in increased costs, and/or required the relocation of students during the phasing of construction.
 
MSBA information
Q1: How were the options presented to the MSBA?  Was there a recommended option put forth to the MSBA by the School Committee?   
A:  The Hopkinton Elementary School Building Committee (HESBC) presented the MSBA with a matrix, which outlined thirteen preliminary options. At a meeting with the MSBA in July, five final options were presented, but only two were recommended by the HESBC and the School Committee. Both options involved new construction at Fruit Street. One option involved a new PK/K and grade 1-5 school at Fruit Street; the other option was the agreed upon solution for a PK-5 at Fruit Street.

Once the PK-5 solution at Fruit Street was approved by the MSBA, the HESBC and architects were authorized to proceed with the schematic designs for the school. The schematic design development allowed a project budget to be established.  Both the schematic designs and project budget were approved by the MSBA in February 2011.

Q2: Will the MSBA allow Hopkinton to amend the current plan if the warrant fails at either town meeting or at the ballot?
A:  No.  The MSBA’s Board of Directors has approved a new PK-5 school at Fruit Street after a year-long Feasibility Study that required a significant amount of time and resources by the HESBC and MSBA. To present any other plan would require a return to the beginning of the process.
 
Q3: Will the MSBA allow Hopkinton to amend the current plan prior to town meeting if feedback from the community indicates a desire to do so?
A: No
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