Where to go? An update on the town’s space expansion plans

Kendall McGowan, Managing News Editor

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by Kendall McGowan

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What’s the immediate problem?

Six hundred eighty-one kindergarteners started school this fall, a grade that has 198 more students than this year’s senior class. The influx of students continues to motivate the town to find both temporary and permanent solutions to the space problem.

According to Superintendent Bill Lupini, the process has been quite slow so far due to the number of people involved with each decision.

“We’re working with state agencies, we’re working with lots of committees of people,” Lupini said. “You have to consult with the neighbors, you have to consult with the parents, you have to consult with the students and the teachers. We’re running out of time.”

What has already happened?

According to Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason, a committee named the Brookline School Population and Capacity Exploration (B-SPACE)was formed last year in order to evaluate Brookline’s options for expansion. Mason said that results regarding the high school were inconclusive. The Brookline community needs to identify and plan for any changes to the high school’s academic culture before the town can make decisions about its physical appearance.

To get this done, the school committee has held two concept studies. They sought to provide the architectural consultants, who the high school has hired, with a clearer picture of what specific elements of the high school they hope to preserve as it grows and expands.

According to junior Juliette Shoemaker, who attended a study on Sept. 23, diverse groups worked together to come up with six goals for the future.

“It was not only our ideals educationally but architecturally and how they could combine,” Shoemaker said. “A lot of people said collaboration and being able to work in groups is one of BHS’s main ideals and having a building and a space that encourages that will help the kids do it.”

According to Lupini, the town also formed the Override Study Committee last year in order to determine whether there was a need for a budget override vote. They put forth two proposals: one at approximately $5 million and the other close to $7.9 million.

“We need more teachers,” Mason said. “We need more lunch ladies. We’ll need more custodial services because if you increase 5 percent of the kids, that’s 5 percent more toilet paper. They’re going to make 5 percent more dirt, which means they have to mop for 5 percent longer. It sounds like nothing, but in this very big budget they have to account for those things.”

Another way the town is dealing with the lack of space is by moving programs such as Adult and Early Education out of the schools and into other spaces being rented by the town. However, this is creating other problems in terms of cost. According to Lupini, the town is spending $500,000 a year on rental spaces to house the programs.

 What’s next?

According to Lupini, Edward Devotion School is the next elementary school slated to receive a renovation, as its population is quickly approaching 1,000 students. This project is expected to begin in 2016 and last two or three years. During that time the sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Devotion will be moved to the Old Lincoln School.

There are still some decisions to be made. According to Lupini, the town is unsure of what the next project should be after Devotion.

“We’ve talked some about adding on to the Driscoll school and we’ve also talked about the idea of building a ninth elementary school,” Lupini said. “That next logical step is still under discussion.”

According to Mason, the best course of action to take with the high school is equally unclear, as the details about academics and culture are still being decided through the concept studies.

“What makes sense to do first is figure out what kind of school we need for 2,600 kids, what it is that we like about Brookline High School as it is now, with almost 1,900 kids, and whether we can preserve those elements in a bigger school,” Mason said. “If not, we might need to look at building a second school or changing some elements of the school to make the high school successful as a much larger school. Those questions are still there.”

Kendall McGowan can be contacted at [email protected]