This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hayes Gives Refresher on HS Project

Dr. Hayes has prepared this letter detailing the series of events that led up to the City's decision to build the new high school academic wing. The letter was sent to all members of the City Council, School Committee, and the press.

It's an interesting read for those who didn't follow the events that led to the desision to build a new facility, rather than renovate the existing structure.

Hayes' letter details the four options that were recommended in the July 2002 Feasability Study that was commissioned after the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) placed the high school on warning because of "large scale deterioration of the building, its infrastructure, and its instructional equipment.” Some excerpts:

In this comprehensive report, the physical evaluation determined that building systems for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), plumbing, and electrical “have generally outlived their useful life. Systems are in poor condition; do not meet building code requirements or recommended practices… Any substantial building renovation if undertaken will include a complete replacement [of these systems].”
The report presented four options to the district:
  • Option 1: Full Renovation with Minor Additions – Renovating one wing at a time, this project would require an additional 20 portable classrooms and related facilities and would take six years to complete. Estimated cost = $50,750,000
  • Option 2: Full Renovation with Minor Additions – Renovating more than one wing at a time, this project would require an additional 40 portable classrooms and related facilities and would take four years to complete. Estimated cost = $52,750,000
  • Option 3: New Construction – The gross square footage of this new facility would be less than the current facility and would take two years to complete. Estimated cost = $49,700,000
  • Option 4: Combination of New Construction and Renovation – A blend of new construction (academic wing) and renovation (field house, cafĂ©, and auditorium) would result in a building larger than that in Option 3 and would take two years to complete. Estimated Cost = $49,400,000
SMMA [architectural firm Symmes Maini & McKee Associates] recommended Option 4, which was subsequently supported by the Joint Secondary Facilities Committee. For those in the community who continue to recommend a complete renovation of the facility, it should not be missed that it would cost just as much as the project currently being considered and would substantially interrupt the education of students for four or six years while sections of the building are renovated. A full copy of the Feasibility Study is available here.

Hayes then details the steps that led NEASC to move BHS from "warning" status to "probation," to nearly stripping the school of it's accreditation, until the City Council finally appropriated the money for the reconstruction project.

Hayes concludes the letter, saying:

NEASC never told Beverly it had to build a new High School. However, it did require a long range solution to the issues in the current facility. The proposal before the City Council represents the best analysis and thinking toward that goal. It is fair to say that if this project were to not be supported by City Council, the High School would lose its accreditation in a matter of months.

The design of the new facility is efficient and forward-thinking and will support good teaching and learning for decades to come. It is our best solution to the problems we face. The best investment of tax dollars is for a building that will support education in Beverly for the next 40-50 years, not for band-aids to a building whose time has passed.

From what we hear, it seems unlikely that the Council will reject the measure at this point, but if you haven't yet, it would still be a good idea to contact your city councilor to let them know you support the project, and to attend Monday evening's vote. As we've seen, the opposition is always very vocal.

No comments: