Milton School Board members carved out a plan Monday night to address space issues in the district, a departure from two architect-recommended options trustees heard in early December.
Full classrooms and lacking behavioral spaces at Milton Elementary and Middle School have forced school officials to consider how to best serve students while remaining accountable to taxpayers, superintendent Amy Rex said. MTSD will need at least one additional classroom to house a burgeoning kindergarten cohort, according to architect Matthew Reed.
Monday night, board members decided MTSD should construct five new classrooms for the 2019-20 academic year, reconfiguring the current district offices and teacher resource center at the Herrick Ave. building. The retrofit could cost $795,000, the architects said.
That leaves the question of where to put the displaced administrators. Consultants from Wiemann Lamphere architects had suggested moving them to the unused Bradley St. home that MTSD purchased last March.
Monday night, board members discussed renting trailers until construction is complete at the Bradley St. building for the following school year. They also debated purchasing trailers for permanent office space on the property or renting trailers with the intention of building an entirely new district office complex on the Bradley Street lot in the future, with a voter-approved bond.
Facilities director Bruce Cheeseman felt confident he could lower the construction cost from the already-scaled-back plan. Architects had proposed a multi-million renovation that included an additional school wing with steps built out over 15 years.
Community members have proposed moving elementary classes to Bradley Street or the high school, but these proposals don’t take into account scheduling, like for lunch times, or the costs of renovating bathrooms there, Rex said.
Any changes must also consider what’s best for student development, she said. But building the five classrooms is a priority, and even with these, space will be tight.
A large demand for space comes from students’ changing behavioral needs, according to Rex. Recent conversations with area superintendents revealed a common trend over the last five years that an increasing number of students come to school unprepared to learn. In Milton, this number is as high as 20 percent, Rex said.
“The elementary wings are so crowded that it complicates how we address students with needs, especially the students who need trauma-informed space to deregulate,” she said.
The proposal would afford MTSD flexibility to design in a way that is more conducive to support services.
“You’ve got to retool for the 21st century,” she said. “This is a district that could be on the cutting edge around designing spaces.”
The district will use the coming days to obtain updated estimates for the classrooms, Bradley Street construction and temporary offices before deciding whether to warn a bond vote. The task now, board chairman Mike Joseph said, is helping community members understand the district’s needs.
Rex said it’s challenging for community members to visualize the district’s needs because their academic experience might inform their opinions of what school is like today.
“Even if [classes] were tight or tough for them, ‘I made it through’ is often [their argument],” Rex said. “I say the same thing sometimes, but I think our needs of society have changed significantly, too.”
For now, the district will prepare information to help share the rationale behind the proposal, Joseph said.
“The onus is on us to make sure that every student has an opportunity to be successful and so we have to prepare them in a very different way,” Rex said.