In response to concerns about moving the elementary playground, BOE says it will look into the issue
January 6, 2016
With the vote on the proposed $15.5 million capital project one week away, the 22 people attending a public hearing on the project Tuesday night walked away with one message – nothing is cast in stone.
One parent and elementary teacher presented a petition with 52 signatures, gathered over the weekend and Monday, opposing the plan to move the elementary school playground.
“I feel people will vote down the whole project because of the playground being moved,” the parent, who asked not to be identified, told Board of Education members. “Many people feel you should upgrade the playground but leave it where it is. My biggest fear is that we would lose the entire project.”
She said there would be plenty of room for additional parking if a locked gate near the fields was unlocked during school events, allowing cars to be parked near the fields.
Community voting will be held from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12 in the high school gymnasium lobby.
The capital project proposes to move the playground to an adjacent field to make way for additional parking spaces at the school. The playground also contains memorials to three former students – Darren and Todd Rudolph and Karl Edwards - who died in the early 1990s and whose families asked for donations to help build the playground. Those memorials would be moved and re-dedicated once the new playground is built.
Superintendent Jon Peterson said he had received two communications from staff members in opposition to the playground being moved.
“Once this project is approved, it enters the design phase,” said Peterson. “We should realize that this issue needs to be looked at again during the design phase.”
The architects, BCK-IBI Architectural Group, has developed designs and proposals for the improvements listed here (PDF). However, once it is clear that the project has community support, the architects will fine tune and confirm all of the details before the plan is submitted to the state Education Department for a detailed review.
Board of Education member Kevin Capobianco, who with BOE Vice President Robert Suits served on the facilities committee that developed the proposal, said the board has always been willing to listen to concerns about the project. He said people have not flocked to meetings to express their concerns.
“Our track record is that we, as a board, will listen to anybody who contacts us,” Capobianco said, noting that the proposal has been developed and massaged over the past year. “We have put a lot of hard work into this proposal but nothing is cast in stone. Along the way, anybody could have contacted Bob, Jon or me to tell us what they wanted.”
Board member Joan Scannell, acknowledging the emotional issue involved, said there seems to agreement that the playground needs to be upgraded but not agreement about adding parking. “Why is the gate locked in the back?”
“We need enhancements to the playground and we need additional parking,” said Peterson. “During the design phase, we will take a look at those two items and see what best meets our needs. We will get it right but we won’t have 100 percent of the people happy.” He said the board will establish an Elementary Site Sub Committee to study those two areas before plans are submitted to the state.
He added that the district was hoping for a quick state approval so that the field work could begin this summer at the elementary school. The junior/high school work would begin in the summer of 2017.
Based on a $100,000 home assessment, the $15.5 million project would increase tax bills by $86 per year or $7.17 per month without the state's School TAx Reduction (STAR). If you have BASIC STAR, tax will would increase by $60 per year or $5 per month. If you have Senior STAR, the impact would be $30 per year or $2.50 per month.
There were other comments and questions at the hearing:
Will the school district lose the Smart Funds grant from the state if the proposal fails?
No, that $840,880 from the state would still be available. Right now, several proposals in the capital project will be paid from that funding. Peterson said the facilities committee has not considered what it would be used for if it is not part of the larger proposal. “We have to see the best way to use that money,” said Peterson.
How much of the project is state required?
The district conducted the state-mandated building condition survey. Many of the proposals in the capital project are from that survey, which highlighted building issues throughout the district. However, the state only uses that survey as a guide – there is no requirement that school districts must make the improvements suggested in the survey.
How much of the project is mandated?
Only the requirement to add carbon monoxide detectors is mandated; the rest of the project, such as replacing roofs, are items that are needed.
Will the district get a low interest rate on the borrowing before the rates start to rise?
Peterson said the fiscal advisors for the district will actually lock in the rate, most likely once the project is built and the money is actually borrowed to be repaid over the next 15 years. In the short term, the district borrows money to pay contractors but doesn’t lock in an interest rate until the long-term borrowing is put into place. The state will reimburse 81.4 percent of the project costs over 15 years. The state’s review of the proposal with the architects guarantees that it is eligible for the maximum in state aid.
Will there be a clerk of the works?
“We will need somebody who will
have the district’s interest at heart,” said Peterson.
He said the specifics of naming a clerk of the works or
a construction manager –
who oversees contracts, the architects and other aspects
of the proposal during construction – has not been
The brochure sent home didn’t include a lot of the details about the project. Why wasn’t that more detailed?
Peterson said the district determined that a four-page newsletter would provide sufficient information for people about the project. The newsletter referenced the website, where much more information was available, including an item-buy-item list of the proposals. “We couldn’t put out a 10-page document,” he said.
He mentioned that some people like a lot of information and other don’t want that much. It’s impossible to reach that balance. He suggested the district could establish a Communications Task Force to consider other ways that information could be made available to community members and parents.
Were all of the items on this list (PDF) gone over one by one?
Yes, the facilities committee reviewed each item and, before decisions were made to include an item in the project, input was sought from parents, students and staff as the proposal was developed over the past several months, said Capobianco.
Here's an overview of the project, which took more than a year to develop (PDF).
For a short video to learn more about the Capital Improvements Project desires of the students and staff of MCS click here
Here are a couple of past articles about the project:
December 22, 2015
November 17, 2015
Board of Education approves capital project; proposal to be considered by the community on Tuesday, January 12. This link features photos from both school buildings.
October 27, 2015