HANSON — Selectmen have some homework to do as they weigh options for a second statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by April 8.
The board will vote March 15 on their options, such as whether or not they support expansion at either Indian Head or Hanson Middle School, to replace the crumbling Maquan School. School Committee members will vote March 16.
The first SOI — the district is allowed two — would be a resubmission of the Maquan replacement core project proposal, which was not funded in the last round of MSBA grants. One SOI must be identified as the primary, or priority project and the other as a secondary.
School officials provided selectmen with 10 options to consider. Selectmen seemed to prefer an expansion of the middle school with the intent to weigh the options carefully. Hanson Middle School’s septic system is designed for 700 students, and currently serves 414. Indian Head School will need work in any case.
“This is a great start,” Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young said of the presentation. “This is exactly what we’re looking for. We appreciate all the work you’ve done on this.” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner said that, according to MSBA, Maquan has to be the primary as “it’s the one that needs the most work.” In 2012, a new Maquan was priced at $36.4 million with Hanson’s share put at $17.8 million.
An addition to Indian Head to create a pre-K to grade five school was estimated at $52.7 million in 2012 with Hanson’s share put at $26.3 million. The new pre-K to grade five school building option voted down was estimated at $53 million in 2012.
“Any option is possible,” Gilbert-Whitner said. “You need to let us know which you think is the option that will be best supported by your town, because I don’t think we want to go through what we went through again.”
MSBA does not support renovation of Maquan School, a decision made during the last school building process that voters rejected.
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes and W-H Regional School District officials — Gilbert-Whitner, Facilities Director Ernest Sandland, Director of Business Services Christine Suckow and School Committee member Fred Small, who also chairs the board’s facilities subcommittee — met with selectmen on the matter Tuesday, March 8.
“Since we last met with you, we felt it was important that we do some data collection and come back to you with some information that may be helpful in trying to decide how we’re going to move forward,” Gilbert-Whitner said. “The first thing we did is we really looked at the spaces we currently have.”
She noted that some residents had asked if pupils could be moved out of Maquan into one or both of the other schools. A tour of both Indian Head and HMS, as well as conversations with both schools’ principals showed each building could absorb only one grade level.
“We tried to determine, if we did nothing, what would our spaces look like?” she said. “If we had to move students out of [Maquan], what kind of spaces would we need?”
While grade five could move to HMS, allowing grades one and two could be moved to Indian Head, it would still leave 160 kindergarten and integrated preschool pupils to be placed. The 52 Whitman preschoolers, attending the Maquan program either due to special needs or paid tuition, would have to be moved back to a school there. The pre-K program is currently at Maquan for space and cost-saving considerations.
Space leased at Maquan by the Pilgrim and North River special education collaboratives is on a year-to-year basis as space is available.
Any addition at HMS would have to be made on the side near the library. A separate entrance would be designed if an early learning center for kindergarten and preschool classrooms were moved to that building.
Among the 10 options selectmen are considering: build a pre-K/kindergarten school to replace Maquan; build a pre-K to grade five school (the project that failed; move grade five to HMS and build a pre-K to grade four school; renovate or add on to Indian Head as a pre-K to grade five school; renovate or add on to Indian Head as a pre-K to grade four school, which would require a retrofit Indian Head for little kids and some asbestos and lead paint abatement; renovate or add on to HMS; renovate Indian Head for pre-K/kindergarten; or add portable classrooms to Indian Head for pre-K/kindergarten.
“Cross that off,” said Selectman Kenny Mitchell about portables. “I was there in the mid-’80s.”
Suckow said portables are better now but more expensive, costing $250,000 for a 10-year solution.
The feasibility study done for the rejected school project gives the town a head start on a feasibility study for any option Hanson chooses this time.
WHITMAN —Approaching annual town meetings, school repairs are very much on the minds of town officials in both Whitman and Hanson, especially roof projects at Whitman’s Duval Elementary School and at Hanson’s Maquan Elementary School.
W-H Regional School District officials — Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner, Director of Business Services Christine Suckow, Facilities Director Ernest Sandland and School Committee member Fred Small, who also chairs the board’s facilities subcommittee — met with building committees in both towns on Thursday, March 3.
They presented Whitman’s Buildings, Facilities and Capital Expenditures Committee with a five-year plan of facilities needs at Whitman and region school buildings listed in order of need. The Duval roof topped that list. High school capital projects are apportioned based on student population.
“I don’t think we can vote on a single thing until we get this huge picture … this is overwhelming this year,” Finance Committee Chairman William Capocci said about a proposal to update Town Hall records storage after the school presentation. He said right now there are almost $900,000 in requests from the schools. The Fire Department has 17 articles totaling more than $800,000, the Police Department has six or eight articles and IT has close to 10 on the warrant, plus there is OPEB to deal with.
“The Duval roof is a serious concern,” Gilbert-Whitner said during the district’s presentation. “To go through something like that again would just be a terrible thing. … I think long-term concerns about Whitman Middle School and how best to spend money now, and then later, are big concerns.”
In Hanson officials are weighing options for the Maquan School and repairing the roof, where leaks have been a long-term problem. Selectmen approved a $7,500 engineering study for the project March 8, which now goes before Town Meeting.
“If you all recall last winter, we had horrendous ice dams and damage of well over $100,000 — which was covered by the insurance company,” Gilbert-Whitner said of the Duval roof at the Whitman meeting. “But the insurance did not cover any kind of a repair to the roof.”
The price tag on the Duval roof has yet to be determined. A full engineering study will be needed to determine a price tag.
“I think the money has to be set aside for [an] engineer to come in and figure out what the real cost is going to be,” Sandland said. The engineering of the much bigger Indian Head roof project was $90,000, but Sandland suggested a Duval study and design could cost $20,000 to $30,000. At Maquan, the investigation into the extent of the problem cost $7,500 with the engineering study running between $35,000 and $40,000 to design a replacement roof.
Gale Engineering, which worked on the Indian Head School roof, was asked to survey the Duval roof and “found some deficiencies that needed correction,” Sandland said. Gale estimated the full repair could cost between roughly $200,000 to $300,000 — with a required threshold of $200,000 before the district could even apply for accelerated repair funds from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
“If we’re going to do this, we need to plan it at this town meeting,” said Lynam of an estimated $335,000 to investigate, design and repair the roof.
Suckow said that, for an accelerated green repair, which could bring an estimated 50 to 60 percent reimbursement, the town would have to commit to the full $300,000 for a repair project.
The damaged portion of the Duval roof is on the addition, not the original building once known as the Regal Street School.
“This has been a construction design problem almost since the building opened,” Gilbert-Whitner said of the expanded Duval School. Information was supplied to the MSBA last fall. MSBA succeeded the former School Building Authority when the SBA was revamped around 2005.
An MSBA accelerated repair grant could, if received, reimburse some of the repair costs to the Duval roof. Whitman has approved a statement of interest for an accelerated repair grant and Hanson is moving to make repairs to the Maquan roof until a permanent solution to that school’s problems can be found.
Parameters of the accelerated repair grant require a project involving a building at least 20 years old. The failing portion of Duval’s roof was built in 1999.
“We recognize that this is going to be a significant expense,” said committee chairman, Town Administrator Frank Lynam. “We also, I believe, will be taking the position that if there’s no relief on clawback then we’re going to do, at minimum, the work we have to do to last the 20 years. I don’t see any other way.”
Gilbert-Whitner agreed, noting there was no guarantee of reimbursement.
The district, on advice from MSBA, wrote a cover letter to the statement of interest outlining how the original roof work in question came under SBA oversight.
A search of records on the 1999 project did not yield a lot of detailed information what had been done at that time, according to Sandland.
“That’s why we got to the point where we submitted the information to MSBA, asking them for help in uncovering what could be a very expensive fix,” he said. Contractors involved in the 1999 work have either retired, been unresponsive or gone out of business, he noted.
The Whitman schools projects list also include fire alarm/smoke detector replacement ($50,000 each) at all three, replacing rooftop units ($50,000) at Whitman Middle School, replacing aged kitchen equipment ($53,000) at and carpet replacement ($55,000) in areas of WMS and Conley, Univent replacement ($55,000) at WMS and installation of acoustical tile to soundproof the Conley gym ($20,000).
Sandland said replacing fire alarms/smoke detectors should reduce the number of false alarms, as was discovered when Hanson replaced them in two schools over the summer. Kitchen equipment in need of replacement present health issues if used much longer.
WHRHS projects sought for fiscal 2017 are bleacher chairlift replacement ($26,000 apportioned between the towns) at the turf field, tennis court refinishing and upgrading lights to LED ($165,000) and repairs to the concrete walkways at the entrances ($45,000).
The company that manufactured and installed the chairlift is no longer in business, Sandland said, adding that the state, which now inspects chairlifts every year, has shut the lift down as unsafe. A reinspection is slated for March 31 at which time Sandland aims to get in writing whether the chairlift can be fixed or must be replaced.
The tennis courts were expanded from four to the MIAA-required five by overlaying the surface in 1990. Severe cracks and heaves have now materialized and the playing surface must be ground down and replaced, Sandland said.
Suckow added the that tennis courts have been listed as a hazard by the insurance company for the past two years.
Weather damage has also taken a toll on the entrance sidewalks.
The Whitman building committee, however, wondered if Whitman DPW and Hanson Highway Dept. could work together on the repair to save money.
“We have streets in town that were built by the WPA that are in better shape than what you’ve got going on up there,” Lynam said.
“I’d rather throw the money at our people than give it out to somebody else,” said committee member Selectman Dan Salvucci.