WLC board exploring facility options

The Wilton Lyndeborough School Board believes we are responsible for supporting the district’s goals as expressed in our mission statement: “Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District provides a safe and educational environment that promotes student exploration, critical thinking, and responsible citizenship.”

In an effort to create a better environment, the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board is considering proposing significant improvements to the district’s elementary school facilities. Since consolidating the Wilton and Lyndeborough elementary schools with the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative middle/high school, we have tasked ourselves with examining all the facilities and determining short, medium and long-term plans for the districts’ buildings. To that end, we have hired outside consultants, McCormick Facilities Management, Honeywell Building Solutions and Barker Architects, Inc., to help us determine effectiveness, life cycle, and efficiencies of the district buildings.

One of the standout and consistent responses we have received, not only from our consultants but also from the experts we hire to repair extraordinary problems, is that the Florence Rideout Elementary school is in need of significant work. The cost to repair, modernize to code, and to adequately heat and insulate Florence Rideout for the next few years exceeds $2.5 million. A major renovation would cost 8.2 million and a new school would cost more than $12 million. Both the renovation and new school have significantly longer useful lives and much better educational space than the current facility.

We are currently in the process of soliciting public response to the possible options. We could spend a significant amount of money maintaining Florence Rideout, or spend more for a longer-term solution. However, we need to decide where the district wants to go. Currently both towns need to provide their own elementary school. The current significant need for improvements at Florence Rideout means now is the time to decide if we would like to maintain separate elementary schools in each district, or fully consolidate and use the facilities without restriction. Keeping separate elementary schools in each town has the advantage of allowing neighborhood children to attend classes nearby with children in their own neighborhood. It also allows for a separate town identity and feel. However, choosing to use all district buildings as needed would allow us to more cost-effectively manage class sizes and future building needs.

The board is trying to determine if district voters would like to expend the additional money to keep the Lyndeborough elementary students in Lyndeborough and the Wilton elementary students in Wilton, or if they are willing to send their kids out of town to save the additional cost. We are further trying to determine if the voters would like us to find short-term, low-cost solutions, deferring problems and needed improvements to the future, or find the best solution over the long-term.

The next step is for the Facilities Committee to provide the School Board with a recommendation based on survey and forum input. The School Board will continue to receive input from the communities while working with the Budget Committee and other leaders to determine the best option to put before voters in March 2014.

Geoff Brock is the Wilton-Lyndeborough School Board chair. He lives in Lyndeborough.

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