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Q+A Regarding the Closing of Wing and the Timeline

The members of the Forestdale Reorganization Planning Team have submitted questions about many of the details of the reorganization of the elementary Schools, as well as about the FY16 Budget that supports the reorganization.   We are publishing three Q+A articles generated from the RPT’s questions: this one about the Wing School closure; one about the budget; one about the renovations.

Q. Within the last four years, we were told that the Wing school could remain open for ten years, then x years. Last spring, we were told that Wing would close in 2015. Why was the time line changed and now must be closed after this summer?  Why hasn’t it already been closed? Are there state mandated updates that will necessitate its closing at this time, if they are not completed?

  • People may be confusing a 10-year time frame with the 10-year enrollment projection from NESDEC. They project enrollment out for a 10-year period.  It was the actual decline in enrollment and the projections for continued decline that altered the discussion about a complete renovation or a tear-down and rebuild of the Wing.
  • Simply stated, why spend $34-54 million if the enrollment has already declined to a level where it can be accommodated in 3 rather than 4 buildings? This discussion has been going on since 2009.  It is the contention of some people that with our current enrollment, the closing of Wing could have occurred sooner, but the superintendent recommended reorganizing in 2 phases.  A year was spent in planning phase 1 for the STEM Academy opening in 2014, and this year the focus of planning is for the opening of the PreK-2 and the 3-6 Q. schools in 2015.
  • Regarding state regulations, if any work is done on the Wing building, it will have to meet current codes for school buildings.

Q. Is it possible for Wing to remain open for another year? If not possible, what are the specific reasons why? i.e., mandated updates, safety concerns.  What would the cost be for theoretically repairing necessary items for additional year?

  • Unfortunately, no, it is not possible for Wing to remain open for another year. Last March, the SC voted unanimously to cease the use of the building as a school.  The district no longer needs the 60 classrooms at the Wing.
  • The building leaks and the cost of roof replacement would likely be in the $3million range as it has many flat roof sections. There are many issues with the mechanicals that form the system for supplying heat to the various classrooms. The elevator certificate expires, and by July 1 would be out of compliance.  The requirements would involve a new, larger elevator shaft that would likely be well in excess of $100,000.  The requirements for ADA compliance would mean that we would not use the second floor classrooms.

Q. If Articles 1 and/or 2 does not pass in the Special Town Meeting in February, will that delay the move out of Wing? Will Administration ask for the additional funds at the May Town meeting?  If not passed, what happens then?  Is there a “priority list” of to-do items?

  • Moving ahead with phase 2 is not dependent on the passage of articles 1 & 2 at the Special Town Meeting. Town officials understand that their request for the district to care for the Wing building during its transition, would be balanced by support from the capital budget to properly setup Forestdale and Oak Ridge to receive the children from all of our PreK-6 population.
  • There is a priority list of to-do items.
  • If it does not pass at Special Town Meeting, the District Administrators will determine next steps.

Q.  Why will it take $300k to keep the Wing running while no students are occupying it?  What are the benefits of the School maintaining it?  What are the down sides of the School maintaining it? How long will the building remain vacant? Is it possible that the District will maintain this building for up to 3 years, only to have the Town decide to demolish part or all of it?

  • The district did not say $300,000. The town hall indicated that, “approximately $550,000 is spent annually maintaining the Wing School at a full operational level – this includes custodial staff, utility expenses, etc.” (not including teachers, administration, instructional supplies, etc).  “at a decommissioned level, the operational costs would decrease significantly, by perhaps as much as one-half annually.”
  • The district projects the figure of $245,000. A list was provided as follows: Utilities, $100,000; Decommissioning of Equipment $25,000;  Grounds and Maintenance Supplies $10,000; Contractual Services (alarms) $10,000; Telephones (3 dedicated lines for alarms) $1,500; Wastewater Scada Relocation $10,000; Inventory and Disposition Costs $30,000; Salaries $58,500.
  • The salaries represent partial full-time equivalent employees as follows: Supervision & Security 0.25 or $21,888; HVAC/Plumbing 0.25 or $13,750; Grounds 0.25 or $11,939; Custodial 0.25 or $10,800.  This represents the aforementioned $58,500 a total of 1 FTE.
  • The upside of the schools maintaining the building is that they have cared for it since 1927. The town manager has indicated that they have a 2 person department.  The district has 26 that care for over 650,000 square feet of buildings and all of the grounds, athletic fields, and waste water treatment facilities.  In other words, the district has the institutional knowledge for the care of a complex aging building.  The goal is to not have it degrade and appear as an abandoned building.
  • Another upside is that the with isolation valves installed for sections of the building not in use, the district and town may be able to use the gymnasium and cafeteria. This does help the district athletic program and various Sandwich youth sports teams not affiliated with the school district.  Additionally, the district will continue to care for the athletic fields (mowing, lining, etc) for district and community use of the Wing fields.
  • The town is funding a study to help determine the future of building. Keep in mind that the code requirements for a school building often exceed the requirements for other municipal uses.  Finally, the district is only agreeing to service the building one-year at a time for up to 3-years so that both the town and the schools can assess if the arrangement is working well.

Q. There is discussion of over $800k needing to be added to the budget if Articles 1 and/or 2 does not pass in the special meeting in February, where does that number come from/ how was that calculated?

  •  The $800k amount (actually $877,000) is a projected amount. It is not connected in any way to the passage of the Articles.
  • The $877,000 represents a “rolling forward” of the 2014-2015 Wing expenses with a 2% increase.