Flexibility with Our Short Term Space Budget

A year ago I was quite concerned that the proposed Day Middle School and elementary school modular (short-term space) budgets might not be strictly honored, but my point of view has evolved to a different place.

Three things have changed:

• The needs of Day have come into clearer focus as its population growth continues greater than projected. Newton Public Schools (NPS) is starting to speak of 8 new classrooms, well above the 4 or 6 that were being asked for last year;

• A very good program with some flexibility has been developed that strongly responds to present and anticipated space needs;

• Regardless of initial firm budget limits given by the Mayor, he long ago signaled his flexibility to fund the right plan. His decision to strip the sprinkler work from the short-term space budget, and his lack of comment as Sandy Guryan (NPS-CAO) presented plan after plan that exceeded the original budget target, served to make this point.

I have considered the Mayor’s early firm budget limit as pushing the designers to be as resourceful as they could be, to find out what was truly possible within an inflexible budget. I think they found that, and it represented a fairly incomplete resolution of Day’s needs. One response of his could have been “do it anyway”. Another response, which I think we are seeing, is “take the emerging scheme further down the design path, and let’s see whether we can justify and afford it”.

Our needs have grown measurably in a year and this plan should not be called “short-term” in impact. It may well represent an adequate medium to long term solution, and its value must be reevaluated in that light.
I would have preferred for the City and NPS to have laid out this situation as clearly as I just have, but the basic argument for flexibility remains the same.

Finally, I think there is value and need to work within budgets. NNHS demonstrated that. The Day situation is different than NNHS however, in that we will see a legitimate plan and a legitimate price (albeit with contingencies) before giving a final go ahead. When forced to balance need, program, budget, and timing, this project (so far) appears defendable. The Mayor offered 5 million dollars to solve Day and elementary school space issues last year. With greater need and a clearer program, this cost of some very reasonable problem resolutions is looking like 5.5 to 6 million. I may be able to get behind that.