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Project Needs

Project Needs

The Clyde F. Brown Elementary School was originally constructed over sixty years ago. Much in education has changed since that time, a time when students sat quietly in rows and there was little research on how students learn best.

Cognitive research has enabled schools to make vast improvements in how we teach students resulting in a huge increase in percentage of students graduating at high levels of educational attainment. As one of the higher performing school districts in Massachusetts, we have, for the past decade, encouraged active project and inquiry-based learning focused on a strong foundation in basic skills.  As a District we’ve also been promoting the higher level “21st century skills” that are needed for success in a global economy.  In Millis we focus on personalizing instruction and are severely constrained by our facilities.  Our Clyde Brown Elementary school, while well maintained, now poses challenges in supporting our educational plan and vision for the students of Millis.

We’ve outlined below the challenges and shortcomings of the current Clyde Brown facility.


In 2001, due to overcrowding at Clyde Brown, the fifth grade was moved to the Middle School which is upstairs in the High School building and shares all common areas such as gymnasium, cafeteria, library and auditorium with the High School. It is not optimal to have ten year olds on the same buses and sharing facilities with 18 year olds. It would be developmentally appropriate, and would help to ease the overcrowding that is now at the Middle/High School, if we moved the fifth grade back to the elementary setting. The educational programming that Gr. 5 students access as part of the MS/HS would continue even if housed at Clyde Brown. 

Need for Small Group Instructional Spaces

We have very little appropriate space for students with special needs for instruction, physical, speech or occupational therapies or counseling, or for those students who simply benefit from small group instruction to address specific needs. The Library cubicles created with temporary dividers have been used for this. Currently, we provide many students with supplementary educational services and they access this instruction within small groups that concurrently share space within the library.  While not optimal instructionally, this is the most appropriate spot for small group instruction, as there is no other available space within the building.  The creation of appropriate spaces would allow the district to provide more programming in district to meet the needs of students with special needs. This would save on the expensive funding of tuitions for out of district programs.

Lack of Appropriate Instructional Spaces

Our space constraints impact all aspects of personalized learning, from standard curriculum instruction to the Unified Arts.  Our ability to deliver personalized learning is hampered by the facility.  Technology is widely adopted at Clyde Brown but we lack project rooms, room for technology integration and storage space for instructional materials and Science equipment. Our students are not able to work on projects in groups using technology and the one computer lab is booked for the entire day with classes so that teachers cannot “sign up” to bring classes there.

The kiln is in the Art room itself rather than a separate space which constrains when it can be used. The Music room is used for several classes, including Spanish and Music.  Due to lack of space instruction must sometimes take place on the stage in the cafeteria.  Additionally, Physical Education classes are limited by the one small gymnasium space that must be shared at times between two concurrent classes.  We accomplish this with a room divider but this limits the amount of room in which students can be active as they are working within half of an already small space.

Lack of Media Center

Our CFB Library houses several computers for student and teacher use and is sub-divided with temporary cubicle panels to provide for small group instructional spaces.  This decreases the Library and computer space by over 40%.  As the space is used for supplementary instruction for large time blocks during the school day, students are not able to access the Library as a Media Center for research and project-based learning.  Teachers must be content to schedule this access to learning through a “sign up” schedule process.   Due to the lack of space we have converted storage rooms into offices or small group instructional spaces even though they have no natural light or good ventilation.

Lack of Meeting Space and Teacher Preparation Spaces

Spaces that had been teacher offices for instructional planning or meetings have all been converted to multi-purpose instructional spaces. Many of the specialists and instructional tutors have no space for a desk or to store their materials. There is only one small conference room in which meetings with parents for IEPs (Special Education Individual Education Plans) or other purposes can occur. The table can accommodate 6-8 people only. For groups of 15-20 people, the Library must be shut down or meetings squeezed before or after lunch schedules in the cafeteria.

Small Cafeteria

Due to space constraints with the existing cafeteria and corresponding bathrooms, Clyde Brown schedules five separate lunches that begin at 11:10 and extend until 1:20.  Space constraints in this arena significantly impact the scheduling of academic intervention blocks, Unified Arts classes, and time best spent on learning.

Need for Early Childhood Program Space

Research has proven the benefit of early childhood education and there is nationwide momentum for providing universal pre-school and full-day kindergarten programs for all children. We would be able to provide more early childhood programming with additional classroom space. Current Kindergarten classrooms are 780 sq. ft. instead of the MSBA recommended 1,200 sq. ft. per 18 students. This limits how active students can be in classrooms and students must crowd together on the “meeting rug” for direct whole group instruction.

Need for Space for Support Services for Families

We currently have no room for consultation space or for resources to support parents of children attending the Millis Public Schools. Currently alternate spaces, like converted supply closets, storage spaces, or other areas like cubicles in the library serve this purpose and because the meetings take place in more public areas they are not entirely in keeping with appropriate FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) requirements.

Lack of Performance Space

The Clyde Brown Elementary has no Auditorium or an adequate stage for performance arts. Performances must be scheduled around either the availability of the Cafeteria of the Gym; scheduled performances can sometimes displace the Phys Ed classes, forcing teachers to conduct classes in general classrooms during inclement weather.

Lack of Adequate Bathrooms

There are not enough adult bathrooms and students’ bathrooms are old and in need of repair and modernization. Currently, almost 500 students share the same bathrooms between classrooms, the Cafeteria and Gym, and a staff of about 60 adults must share 3 designated bathrooms.

Need for Cohesive and Pleasant Physical Environment

There has been much research on how students need natural light and adequate temperature control and ventilation, along with room to move around in order learn optimally. The dark interior and aging conditions impact students. A recent space needs study completed by an external consulting firm, Tetra Tech, also pointed to the lack of cohesion to the Clyde Brown building with a poor flow to and from classrooms to common areas and a lack of areas that can be used to unify teachers and students for celebrations or performances.

Lack of Security and Communication Systems

A lack of good intercom and having no phone systems in classrooms impacts ability to communicate for instructional or safety reasons. Front entrance and other doors need to have better security equipment. Currently staff at CFB utilize walkie talkies to facilitate communication in areas that lack intercoms.  The front entrance to the school lacks an appropriate foyer in which to welcome and screen visitors before they enter the building proper.  Additionally, the doors have outlived their useful life – over the years, shrinking and swelling of the door frames has resulted in doors that need quite frequent adjustment to close properly and safely secure the building.

Technology Network Infrastructure

Internet access and the network infrastructure are inadequate for the computer devices currently employed and hamper students’ research and projects as well as staff productivity. Servers and routing equipment are in a teacher’s office that must sometimes be used for small group instruction. The room becomes hot and is noisy. The Internet connection goes through the Middle/High School building, thus constraining connectivity. There is only one computer drop per classroom and wireless connectivity is spotty. Classroom wings currently share access to a general printer, which can interrupt student learning on many levels.

Lack of Storage Space

There is virtually no storage room at all except for one closet in the Cafeteria. Records storage for both CFB and Pupil Personnel Services utilize this space, and currently student records co-exist alongside carts of folding chairs, extra furniture and supplementary curriculum materials.  Finding space for teachers to store grade-wide curriculum materials used in Science and Engineering projects and other project-based units is extremely difficult, and many teachers choose to either bring materials home for storage or find space in their already overcrowded classrooms for these important learning materials.

Need for Safe Access

Parking is inadequate and traffic flow is hazardous. A 2004 study and the Tetra Tech study both point out the inadequacy and danger of the current design.

Existing Systems/Infrastructure Beyond Service Life

The Clyde F. Brown School was built in 1954 and additional space was added in 1991.  Many of the major building systems and components have reached the end of their useful life. The core building components and infrastructure such as heating, ventilating, cooling, life safety, temperature control, electrical and plumbing are all in need of major repair or full replacement. The district, in partnership with the community, has worked very hard to maintain a safe and healthy school building through capital funding on warrant articles. Those efforts have allowed the facility to remain usable for many years without major capital investment.  The age of the largest building systems, and the span of time since new systems were installed, has made the need to replace or repair these systems a priority.

While our needs are great the feasibility study provides us with an opportunity to review the educational plan, and the facility it is delivered within, along with the MSBA.  Through this process we will discuss options with the community, Town boards, committees and School administration and personnel to determine the right next step for Millis.  

CPM EBoard,
Sep 7, 2017, 7:41 AM