Scott told School Committee members his administration looked at many options and the administration concluded the best solution was Project LEAP (a grade reconfiguration and STEAM initiative plan). Part of Project LEAP calls for opening the current school administration building into the town's ninth elementary school, too.
"It is our belief that moving the present fourth and fifth grade from McCarthy Elementary and Brophy Elementary schools to Fuller and slowly building the King Elementary School by adding a grade level a year will be sufficient to meet the current space challenges," said Scott to the Framingham School Committee.
He said Framingham is not alone in grappling with a space issue and that many districts have 5-8 middle schools, including neighboring Natick.
However in Natick, all fifth graders are at the middle school. Scott's proposal calls for just two of the town's eight elementary school to move its fifth graders to Fuller Middle.
"We believe that this plan will provide the District with the necessary classroom space to accommodate its student growth needs for the next 4-5 years," said Scott.
The school district plans to ask the community to renovate Fuller Middle School and possibly renovate the former Farley school, as part of its long-term space needs project. The Town's CFO suggested, earlier this month, that the estimated $25-27 million project would likely be funded through an override. A portion of that project could be funded by the state.
Scott told School Committee members last week, his administration had reviewed several options, before coming to this LEAP proposal.
And that the Framingham School District has three options:
- Do nothing
- Move ahead with Project LEAP
- Redistrict the entire town
Options Scott said his administration considered but rejected included:
1) House all kindergarteners at the King Administration Building. Scott said not possible as the total capacity is about 475 students and the estimated incoming kindergarten class is about 800 students.
2) Open the former Farley school as a ninth elementary school. Scott said this is not possible as the School District extended its lease with Mass Bay Community College under 2015.
3) Rent or purchase other buildings in town. Scott said administration looked at St. Tarcisius and St. Stephen schools but neither is available at the moment.
4) Place modular classrooms at McCarthy Elementary. He said temporary units could not be placed on the site without encroaching on wetlands or eliminating playground spaces.
5) Adding additional modular classrooms at Brophy Elementary. He said to do so would exceed the building square footage limit and that a fire suppression system, at an estimated $2 million, would be required to meet code.
6) Place modular classrooms at Wilson Elementary school. Scott said there is no land available at that site.
7) Reopen Juniper Hill as an elementary school or a fifth grade academy. Scott said moving BLOCKS preschool to Juniper Hill was part of a long-range plan and significant funds were allocated for a new playground designed for the young child as well as building renovations/upgrades. And, Juniper Hill has the smallest footprint of any elementary school building.
8) Create three grade 5-8 schools at Walsh, Fuller and Cameron. Scott said Cameron is not able to accommodate the projected enrollments and Walsh could only handle one year of grade 5 before it was overcrowded.
9) House all fifth graders at current King Administration building. Scott said the king only has the capacity for a maximum of 24 classrooms and the current fourth grade class has 760 students. Plus, he added this would require fifth graders transition twice in two years in three different buildings.
10) Consolidate to two middle schools using Fuller and Walsh and change Cameron to an elementary school. He said the Town of Framingham is prohibited from doing this due to the renovation project funded through Massachusetts School Building Authority which requires the building be used as a middle school until it is fully paid for.
11) Reconfigure special education classrooms into smaller learning spaces. Some of those special education classes have just 7-15 students but take up a classroom that could house 20-25 students. However, Scott said costs for reconfiguring those classrooms would be excessive.
12) Redistricting the entire town. "Redistricting the entire student population solves the question of where to place newly arriving students and enables resolution of several long-term problems," said Scott. "But it comes at a very high price since it disrupts the entire community and incurs the financial cost of fully opening a new elementary school, which will be essential at that point."
Scott said the LEAP "proposal for reconfiguration avoids redistricting by maintaining the current zones and not requiring the selection of 300-400 students to attend the new King elementary school once it opens. While redistricting creates an opportunity to resolve several longstanding problems such as the placement of programs as well as avoiding the undesirable elements in the District’s proposal, it does not guarantee that students not moved by the King-Fuller proposal would not be moved by the redistricting."
"With redistricting, every elementary student is at-risk for changing schools," said Scott.