Category Archives: School facilities

Isn’t It Time To Build That 16th School?

Why don’t we build a new elementary school in Upper Falls? I used to be a vocal advocate for a 16th school in Upper Falls. Then as I learned more my thinking gradually changed.

An UF school would have a small population, as low as 250 students, and ongoing student population growth in this area is speculation, not fact.  In the 70s and 80s Newton closed schools around the City as their enrollments hit the low to mid 200s because an economic assessment showed that schools of this size were very inefficient to run.  Building and operating new small schools is still inefficient, and investments in new buildings channel dollars away from maintaining and repairing our older school buildings.

Continue reading Isn’t It Time To Build That 16th School?

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; Continue reading Flexibility with Our Short Term Space Budget

Top 2 challenges for our School Committee this year

Top Two Challenges:

1. Completion of a fair and sustainable teacher contract. Signs are that we are close, and a contract that is long-term affordable while respecting our teachers as bargaining table partners is a very good thing.

For years, contract growth has been the largest cost driver in the school budget; keeping this in check leaves more money to maintain student/teacher ratios, pilot and finance technology initiatives, strengthen early learning, and preserve breadth-of-program, for starters. Continue reading Top 2 challenges for our School Committee this year

Parkview Homes and School Overcrowding

The new Parkview Homes affordable housing development off Lexington Street will house children within the Burr School district. Many area parents have expressed concern that city planners have supported this private development but have not planned for its impact on school overcrowding.

If new construction creates increased tax revenues for the City, don’t we end up coming out even or ahead? The answer is more complicated than that, relating to resources, timing, and planning. I’ll start an explanation of why with an example: Continue reading Parkview Homes and School Overcrowding

What will happen if we start to renovate Carr and Angier without asking for a debt exclusion?

Let’s pick some numbers: Suppose that a substantial Angier renovation and addition costs $25 million, somewhat less than a new building that could run to $35 million by 2013. Suppose that Carr can be renovated into swing space for $7 million, or a million less than the “wish list” renovation currently being proposed. This brings us to $32 million in funding need. Continue reading What will happen if we start to renovate Carr and Angier without asking for a debt exclusion?

CIP Spending – The Right and Wrong Targets

Most of the funding for Newton’s school building maintenance comes from a fund called the CIP. CIP money, traditionally $1.75 million annually, is borrowed by the City via the sale of municipal bonds and is turned over to the Newton Public Schools to spend at their discretion. Each year Mike Cronin, NPS’s head of facilities, prepares a list of possible projects for review and approval by the School Committee. These projects typically include boiler replacements, door and window replacements, roof repairs, new elevators, new auditorium seating, etc. Continue reading CIP Spending – The Right and Wrong Targets

Planning for School Infrastructure

One comment made at the recent Board of Aldermen presentation on school space needs by an astute alderman (with apologies, the identity of the speaker escapes me!) is the need to work the intersection between short and long term planning.

The acquisition of Aquinas serves as a perfect example. COO Bob Rooney spoke on this and noted that there is no swing space need this coming year, and it is hard to justify acquiring Aquinas and then leaving it vacant for a year or two while developing a use plan.

But consider that 2 years ago the “bubble” was only 5 years wide; now it is 10 years wide and it sensibly should be considered as permanent growth. If Aquinas is a legitimate infrastructure piece of a permanent growth scenario, we must look seriously at it now while it is still available. Continue reading Planning for School Infrastructure

Aquinas as a Magnet School – Good for Academics, Good for Space Crunch

A K-8 magnet school at Aquinas offers an intriguing double-bonus:

1. It gives us an opportunity to strengthen our academic program with a math/science academy, a Montessori program, or world language immersion (e.g. Framingham’s math charter school, and the highly regarded Holliston French immersion and Montessori offerings);

2. It will draw off every single elementary and middle school in Newton, reducing enrollment pressures at every single school in the district. If spending on Aquinas eliminates the need to spend for expansion at some of our other schools that must be added into the economic equation. Continue reading Aquinas as a Magnet School – Good for Academics, Good for Space Crunch

Historic Newton and our school buildings

I subscribe to the NewtonParents listserve, which serves as a discussion board for a wide range of school-related issues.  In recent days, the topic of renovation verses demolition/reconstruction of some of our elementary schools has come up.  Questions have been raised about whether Angier, Zervas, Cabot, and Ward schools have historic value, are tasteless eyesores, are physically suitable for renovations, or can be affordably replaced.  The topic drifted into properties that the city calls “historic” and a role that the Historic Commission has played.   I posted my own thoughts, which are largely captured below:   Continue reading Historic Newton and our school buildings