HANSON — The Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday, March 15 to unanimously recommend a renovation/addition to Hanson Middle School, adding on a pre-K and kindergarten early child education center, as their preferred secondary statement of interest (SOI) project as a solution to deteriorating conditions at Maquan School.
Known as “Option 6” on a list of 10 possible projects presented for consideration by school district officials March 8, the proposed early child education center would be separated from the middle school pupils with a separate entrance, if built. Grade five pupils would be moved to HMS from Indian Head, where grades one and two would be relocated from Maquan.
The School Committee was slated to vote on the two SOIs to be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) at its Wednesday, March 16 meeting. The district is permitted two SOIs, with the primary being a resubmission of a proposal for a new Maquan School.
“The MSBA already knows that the Maquan School should be replaced,” said Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young, prefacing his own recommendation for the second SOI. “My own personal pick would be the middle school because there would be less intervention into an old school, which would require more rehabs.”
He noted that he is not an educator, however, and that school officials have to make a decision that is both fiscally responsible and educationally sound.
Selectman James McGahan agreed with Young’s recommendation.
He had looked into the former school on East Washington Street and the old police station building on Indian Head Street as possible alternative sites for an early child education center. The former was “too badly in ruin” and the latter has a non-viable septic system.
“I agree with the grade moves they had done an analysis on,” McGahan said. “I think [Option 6] is probably the best option. I would like to see a cost analysis for either solution.”
Renovating Indian Head to include pre-K and kindergarten was another possible option the school district had listed.
Interim Town Administrator Richard LaCamera said MSBA would look at everything from the HMS gym, to the kitchen and other areas as well as a population forecasts for the next 20 years or more in its cost analysis.
“When they approve this project, whatever it is, it’s a 50-year project, so you’ve got to be careful as to what you’re going to look at and what the options are,” he said. “You don’t want to get stuck in a situation where you don’t have room for growth.”
Young and McGahan noted that is being taken into consideration.
In other business, Selectmen are planning to meet with Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV to discuss expansion of the number of meetings broadcast on cable.
Former Board of Health member Richard Edgehille has volunteered as a videographer for cable broadcasts of Hanson board meetings for 15 years, slowing down recently to enjoy retirement.
But he expressed concern that many boards are no longer being recorded.
“If covered, number one, the public could see what’s going on in the town and, number two, it could back up any minutes or anything that you have,” Edgehille said. “I think it’s about time that we really did something about it.”
He noted that new technology doesn’t require a lot of expense or manpower to set up cameras, particularly for situations where more than one board meet at once.
Selectmen also accepted, with regret, the resignation of Sean Joanis from the Zoning Board of appeals. While a ZBA alternate has expressed interest in appointment as a voting member to fill the vacany, selectmen have urged anyone interested in being considered for appointment to apply online or at the Selectmen’s Office in the next few weeks.