Middle School Planning: Renovate Fuller $40M; Move to Farley $4M [Video]
But the middle school planning issue is more than just a financial one; there is rising enrollments to factor into the equation along with what Mass Bay Community College wants to do with its Framingham campus.
School leadership would like to close Fuller Middle and move into the former Farley Middle School, but much of the Framingham Public School's long-range plan lies on what Massachusetts Bay Community College's long-term plans for its Framingham campus.
Saturday morning, school leaders, Town Meeting members, Finance Committee members and various members of other town committees toured the two schools, located next door to each other on Flagg Drive, across the street from McCarthy Elementary School.
Framingham Public Schools Business Manager Ed Gotgart in his presentation said Mass Bay Community College's 10-year lease ends in August 2013, but the new president of the college has indicated he would like to extend the lease to 2014, and maybe even to 2018.
The Mass Bay president even mentioned having an interest in purchasing the school, added Framingham Superintendent of Schools Steven Hiersche.
The Town of Framingham negotiated the terms of the current 10-year lease and collects the rent but the Framingham School Committee signed the lease agreement as the School Committee retains the ownership of the building.
Framingham Public Schools Buildings & Grounds manager Matthew Torti said there are "questions about the structural integrity" of Fuller Middle, and if he had his preference he would like to see Fuller closed and students moved to the former Farley building.
But Farley is not in perfect shape either. There is standing water under the roof, said Torti. (He showed the roof's problems in detail via a slide show.)
The layout of the school is "atrocious," said Torti. The kitchen and cafeteria could only handle 120 students at a time and would need to be expanded. The current Fuller Middle School population is about 525 student in grades 6-7-8.
Torti added the bathrooms are not ADA complaint and would likely need $500,000 worth of upgrades.
Fuller Middle School Principal Juan Rodriguez, who attended Fuller Middle School as a student when it was Framingham South High School, said if he had his preference he would want a brand new building; and not stay in Fuller or move to the former Farley school.
"It's going to be expensive to fix this school," Rodriquez told the school and town leaders assembled Saturday morning at his school.
Torti estimated it could cost close to $40 million to fix Fuller Middle, which was built in 1958 and has a 196,000 square feet of building space - not all used for educational purposes. (Framingham Access cable TV, school administration offices, building & grounds operations to name just a few also are located inside the school.)
In comparison, the new Ashland High School, which opened in 2006, is 200,000 square feet and cost under $40 million at $39.8 million. The state has lauded Ashland for its cost-effective high school construction and suggested other school districts use it as a model.
The least expensive option, but only if Mass Bay decides it is no longer interested in its current Framingham location, is a move to the former Farley school.
Torti estimated a move to Farley would require about $3 or $4 million in construction/renovation costs.
If Mass Bay decides it is not interested in staying at its current location on Flagg Drive, the earliest students could move into the former Farley school would be Fiscal Year 2016. The latest would be the fall of 2018.
In both scenarios, construction takes place in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, with the current Fuller Middle School students displaced to the town's other two middle schools - Cameron and Walsh.
Gotgart stressed (as you can watch in the attached Framingham Patch video) the issue of the school department wanting to move Fuller Middle into the former Farley school is no longer just a school department issue but a towna nd a community issue.
The Framingham School Department has requested $200,000 to study the two schools, including construction and reconvation costs as its #1 capital project priority.
Members of the Capital Budget Committee, Ways & Means Committee, Standing Committee on Education, the Finance Committee will review the request, but ultimately it will come down to a vote of Town Meeting.
One other issue to consider in a potential move from Fuller to Farley is that the design capacity for Fuller Middle is for 1,200 students. (Remember, Fuller Middle was the former Framingham South High School.)
"Those students are just a few years away from attending middle school," said Hiersche.
Editor's Note: For complete transparency, my daughter is scheduled to attend Fuller Middle School in the fall of 2012. Her elementary schools feeds into Fuller.