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Steps taken to move toward modular classes, and much to learn quickly

The School Committee has taken steps toward establishing modular classrooms by referring the matter to a subcommittee for study, but that panel will have to learn a great deal in a relatively short time.

Stratton sign

School Committee logoThe classrooms, expected to cost $250,000 each, are to accommodate Stratton students moved during the school's renovation in 2016-17 as well as others who are part of the district's expanding enrollment.

In a 6-0 vote (Kirsi Allison-Ampe was absent), the School Committee on Thursday, April 30, referred correspondence from Stratton parents to the facilities subcommittee, chaired by member Cindy Starks.

Parents have expressed concern about moving students to Ottoson for a year. Two speakers at the April 30 public participation, Jane Morgan and Frank Ciano, continued that theme.

"What should we know?" Starks asked.

Committee Chairman Paul Schlichtman responded that there is "a lot we don’t know about these classrooms."

The subcommittee will have to find out in short order.

Time issues

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said the administration is sending out a request for proposals for designs of modular classrooms and expects to hear back by mid-June. A School Committee vote on bids should be scheduled for late June. Responses to contractors should go out in July, she said, because orders need to be made a year in advance.

Committee member Bill Hayner said he understood two differing kinds of modulars are possible. Diane Johnson, the schools' chief financial officer, said they can new or rehabbed.

As to cost, Bodie clarified the $40,000 figure parents had cited and said she expects the cost to be $250,000 per unit.

The plan announced to date would site six modular classrooms at Ottoson, Hardy and Bishop schools, and Stratton students would be bused to them.

Committee members asked that the administration investigate all possibilities for siting or for alternative space.

Member Jud Pierce asked about property the schools own along Schouler Court, next to Arlington High School.

"We're thinking about it," Bodie said.

Hayner said: "We need to look at all spaces we have control of." That includes, he said, "Junior High East," the former name of the property housing the Gibbs gym, Lesley Ellis and Arlington Center for the Arts.

Need to involve parents

He emphasized that officials need to have on open conversation with parents about modular classrooms in subcommittee.

During public participation, Morgan, who has three children at Stratton, said she had heard a "great response from many" parents regarding the plea for considering alternatives to having Stratton students at Ottoson in 2016-17. She said she "looks forward to working with committee" on this issue.

Frank Ciano, a Precinct 15 Town Meeting member, said he had received numerous emails from constituents about the issue. If schools need money, he urged to committee "to ask for it."

In March, Bodie said: "Locating the older Stratton students’ classrooms at Ottoson brings an additional benefit to the district. Given the district’s enrollment growth over the last few years, the middle school will require additional classroom space in 2017-2018 to accommodate the larger numbers of students moving up from the elementary schools."

As reported in late March, all of the grades at Ottoson are under 400 students. The public schools' current third grade has 473 students; second grade, 464 students; first grade, 479 students; and kindergarten, 513 students.

She has said that the modular classrooms installed at the middle school will be designed for many years of service, which provides time for the town to consider options for the middle school.

The administration has not determined which grades will be at Hardy and Bishop. The supported learning program will move to Peirce School for 2016-17.

The locations were chosen in the light of the fact that modular classes have to be connected to a building and have the flat area nearby on which to be situated.

A tight construction scheduled. Renovated Stratton has to be ready to open in September 2017.

Of the prefabricated modular classes, which comply with the America With Disabilities Act, Bodie said in late March, "They're air-conditioned."

Bodie noted that parking needs at Ottoson will have to be addressed to accommodate a structure there.

A study of space needs in the light of the schools’ enrollment increases is expected to be conducted this summer by HMFH of Cambridge. The architectural firm designed the rebuilt Thompson School. A report is expected by September.

March 30, 2015: Modular classroom sites ID'd for Stratton students during 2016-17 renovation
March 22, 2015: Stratton School renovation moves forward; students to be relocated in 2016-17

Sept. 21, 2014: At last, study spells out steps for Stratton revamp, if it can be funded

Links to Stratton plans

This summary was published Thursday, May 7, 2015.

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