A multimillion-dollar proposal could land on the school ballot this Town Meeting.
The Milton School Board is vetting a major renovation project to address ongoing space issues in the district. The discussion stemmed from a presentation from Wiemann Lamphere last Monday night, during which architects presented two options to increase instruction space.
Milton schools are currently at optimal student/teacher levels, according to superintendent Amy Rex, but a recent space study indicated that will change with population growth.
MTSD will require another kindergarten classroom for the 2019-20 school year to meet the state’s recommended student-teacher ratio, architect Matthew Reed said. Because the town’s 2018 comprehensive plan found the town’s gross population is projected to grow between 2 and 4 percent annually, the Herrick Ave. school will need additional classrooms by 2026, he said.
“The spaces are tight,” Rex said. “There’s many elementary classrooms where there’s … 22 students.”
Thus, the two proposals create additional classrooms in the elementary and middle school buildings over the next 15 years. There were some high school renovations, too.
Each plan includes three phases which correlate to a renovation timeline of one, five and 15 years. But the district can make changes at its own pace, Reed noted.
Option 1 would move the current district offices to the Bradley St. property that MTSD purchased last March, freeing up space for two classrooms and a meeting room, according to Reed. The existing Teachers’ Resource Center down the hall would be converted into three additional classrooms.
Board member Emily Hecker inquired how Rex felt about having fewer adults in the school to help with drills and emergencies. Rex and Reed dispelled the concern noting the Bradley St. property is very close to the school building.
This plan would also convert an MES classroom to the nurse’s office, and the middle school nurse’s quarters would be reduced, adding a small and a large meeting room. The biggest phase, however, calls for constructing an entirely new wing comprised of seven classrooms and a meeting room, connecting MES and MMS along a shared courtyard.
Partitions could be added and removed to create planning and special education spaces if needed, the architects said.
The entire plan is estimated to cost nearly $6 million over the 15-year construction timeline, the master plan estimate shows. But facilities director Bruce Cheeseman said there are certain tasks he and his crew could complete that may shave between 10-20 percent off the bottom line.
The architects’ second option drew criticism from Rex, who called it “throwing money to the wind” since it decreases instructional space. Reed, however, called the option a compromise that costs less and is on a smaller scale.
The first phase of Option 2 would convert the district offices to two classrooms and a meeting room. The district offices would move to the TRC, a space about half as small as the Bradley St. location, Reed said.
Most employees there would have workstations instead of private offices, but the plans wouldn’t call for any additions to the building footprint right off.
Later plans show an elementary school behavior space would be converted to a standard classroom and later recouped alongside a new nurse’s office in phase two, resulting in an identical layout to the one proposed in the first option.
Option 2’s second phase would build an addition for three classrooms and two prep spaces near the second and third grade halls, Reed said. Phase three would bring three more classrooms, two offices and two small prep areas for teachers in another addition near the MES art room.
All told, this option could cost just under $4 million, the architects said.
“[It’s] trying to work with what you have,” Reed said. “But it’s not going to get you a whole lot.”
The architects envisioned fewer modifications to the high school, which they said has the proper number of classrooms. Some MHS classrooms surpass the national square-foot per student requirements by nearly 200 feet, Reed said.
Proposed renovations there include moving the maintenance shop to expand an art room and provide it with daylight; removing walls behind the library’s circulation desk to grow the computer lab; and increasing the theater’s footprint so all students, faculty and staff can simultaneously occupy the space.
Board chairman Mike Joseph requested the architects return at the board’s Dec. 6 meeting and asked about a possible third option to consider. Board clerk Rick Dooley asked about the timeline for presenting a bond on the ballot and wondered about a plan for the new kindergarten room should the board decline to move forward with a proposal.
According to business manager Don Johnson, a $2.2 million bond could cover Option 1’s first phase, and $250,000 from the capital reserve could cover the second, which would be built five years after the first. The option’s approximately $3.5 million third phase could also warrant a bond, Johnson said.