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WLC Schools

Facility talks in progress

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.

    The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.

    The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.

    The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.

    The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.

    The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.

    The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Wilton-Lyndeborough Business Administrator Lisa Ambrossio, right, leads a tour of residents through the Florence Rideout Elementary School Library on a tour of the school Monday night.

    Wilton-Lyndeborough Business Administrator Lisa Ambrossio, right, leads a tour of residents through the Florence Rideout Elementary School Library on a tour of the school Monday night. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.
  • The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District Facilities Committee laid out several options for renovations or replacements of the elementary school, following a tour of Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday.
  • Wilton-Lyndeborough Business Administrator Lisa Ambrossio, right, leads a tour of residents through the Florence Rideout Elementary School Library on a tour of the school Monday night.

WILTON — As a group of residents takes a tour through the Florence Rideout Elementary School on Monday, guides note the school’s deficiencies. Classrooms are too small. The breezeway connecting the two wings of the building are not wheelchair-friendly. The heating and ventilation system is in need of upgrading. Students must walk through the gymnasium or music room to get from one place to another, disrupting classes. The cafeteria can only accommodate the students who purchase lunch, with the rest eating in their classrooms.

The facility concerns at the elementary schools, particularly at Florence Rideout, pushed the School Board to task the school district’s Facilities Committee to come up with some options for the future of the district’s elementary schools. On Monday, after a tour of Florence Rideout, the committee presented a list of five options outlining possible ways to address facilities issues to the voters, each with price tags ranging from $2.7 million to $13.5 million.

On Wednesday, residents were expected to go on a similar tour of Lyndeborough Central School, with both tours ending with a presentation of the options for the district.

Since Wilton and Lyndeborough became a cooperative school district, it now has the option of consolidating the elementary students into one new school, or making upgrades to the current facilities with additions. The schools could also be left as they are, with the district addressing facilities deficiencies at Florence Rideout systematically.

In a meeting with the public following Monday’s tour, the school district’s Facilities Committee — comprised of School Board members and Budget Committee members — laid out five options for the public to review. The committee is seeking input from voters. The hope, said Facilities Chair and School Board member Fran Bujak, is to gain a consensus and present a plan at the district meeting in March 2014.

Maintaining the status quo

If taxpayers decide not to renovate either school, or invest in a new space, things will continue as they currently are, with each town supporting a separate elementary school. But Chair of the Facilities Committee Fran Bujak said that doesn’t mean that no money will be spent at the elementary schools in the future.

Florence Rideout Elementary School in particular is in need of facilities improvements that will have to be addressed. Most significantly, from a monetary standpoint, something will have to be done about heating and cooling inefficiencies in the building, he told the group of residents who toured Florence Rideout on Monday. If the district decides to keep the schools as they are, the School Board will continue to make facilities improvements at the school as they are needed. An assessment of the school’s needs estimates that Florence Rideout will need at least $2.7 million in updates to take care of the ventilation issues and bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Bujak advised against this. If the district decides in the future to do renovations, money poured into the building to make improvements may be wasted when the building is one day renovated, since many of the existing problems are in a portion of the building that would likely be torn down to make way for a new addition .

“The day of status quo, meaning doing nothing, is really past us. We’ve been putting more and more money towards dealing with the issues in Wilton,” he said. “To use an analogy, we’ve all kept a car one year too long, when it gets to the point when the maintenance starts to outweigh what a new car payment would cost, and at the end of the day, you still have the old car.”

Starting anew

One option the Facilities Committee presented for the elementary schools is to do nothing with the current buildings, and move all students from both towns into a new, cooperative elementary school. The estimates for the new school are $10,760,316 for construction, $600,000 for land acquisition and 2,150,000 for repurposing Florence Rideout, for a total of $13.5 million. Kyle Barker, the architect who engineered possible plans for renovations at the two school buildings, said in his experience with recent construction of elementary schools, including the Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich, the price for construction is likely to be higher than $10.7 million.

One resident suggested that instead of purchasing land and repurposing Florence Rideout, the district demolish the school and use the land to build a new school on. Bujak replied that they would not be able to finish construction in one summer, so learning would be greatly disrupted. Another asked why Florence Rideout would need to be renovated on the district’s dime at all, suggesting it could be sold as it is. Bujak replied that the ventilation, which heats and cools the building unevenly, would have to be addressed at some point, which is at least half of the repurposing cost.

Other residents expressed disappointment that there is not enough information available for the option of a new school. The Facilities Committee did not provide information about possible sites or a plan for such a school, it was pointed out.

Cooperative with consolidated kindergarten

If the district is interested in a consolidated elementary school model, the Facilities Committee has suggested that the district could use half of the Lyndeborough Central School to house all of the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students from both Lyndeborough and Wilton. The other half of the building could be used to house the SAU offices and a community meeting room for school and administrative use during the day and community use in the evening. The rest of the students from both towns would attend Florence Rideout. The estimated cost for this option is $8.7 million, with $600,000 paying for reconfiguration of the Lyndeborough Central building and $8.1 million paying for a three-story addition at Florence Rideout.

This would eliminate the rent for the SAU — about $22,000 per year — said Superintendent Chris Tyree. It would also allow the newly constructed kindergarten addition to be used for the purpose it was built, and allow all of the teachers with early learning education to be in a single collaborative space. It also gives the opportunity for student to expand their peer groups, and would give parents more choices of potential teachers for their children, said Tyree.

“Also, for teachers, it’s a richer experience when they’re with their peers at a particular grade level,” she said. “The more they’re able to have conversations about what did and didn’t work, and both Wilton and Lyndeborough teachers would benefit from that.”

At Florence Rideout, a portion of the a wing of the school constructed in 1950 would be demolished, and in its place, a 24,000-square-foot, three story addition would be added. The 1950 portion of the building is where most of the problems exist, so it would save potential renovation costs. The 1950s portion that would be taken down is also a single story, and currently houses the lobby and admissions office. If that portion of the building is where construction is going on, classes still go on at Florence Rideout. The addition would allow for up to three classrooms per grade. Looking at the current student population, and birth rates in the towns, the student population is on the edge between needing two classrooms per grade, or three, Barker told the tour crowd. However, if the school district is investing in an addition, the safest route is to build for the worst case scenario, Barker said. Currently, the district has 290 students — 221 at Florence Rideout and 69 at Lyndeborough.

The addition could be built where there is currently administrative offices, so construction could be completed during the school year without the need to find new classroom homes, said Barker.

Separate but equal

One of this issues that has arisen since the district’s consolidation is that Lyndeborough does not have all of the facilities Wilton does, said Bujak. Specifically, Lyndeborough Central School is lacking a gymnasium. The Facilities Committee suggested one option is to build a 3,000-square-foot addition at the Lyndeborough school that would include a multipurpose room that could serve as a half-court gym and a new kitchen. The gymnasium would not meet state education requirements, said Barker, but would be more appropriate for a school of Lyndeborough’s size. The district could apply for a waiver for the size. The addition is estimated to cost $1,656,364. WLC Supt. Christine Tyrie said state building aid isn’t expected to be available for at least another two years.

Wilton would follow a similar plan to the one outlined above for a cooperative school, with a consolidated kindergarten. Without space-saving measures that could be implemented with a cooperative school, however, Florence Rideout would have an 28,000-square-foot addition for all the upper grades from both towns. The total cost for the 28,000-square-foot addition at Florence Rideout is an estimated $8.4 million.

Cooperative with SAU and one grade at Lyndeborough

The Facilities committee also suggested that if parents are uncomfortable sending students out of town for kindergarten, Lyndeborough Central School could be converted to SAU offices, with the other half a single grade of students between grades one and five, consisting of both Wilton and Lyndeborough students. This would mean renovations at Lyndeborough to include the gym and kitchen. A with the rest of the grades housed at Florence Rideout, it would need a three-story addition. The total cost of this option is estimated at $9.7 million.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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