By Alex Malm
The School Board was expected to be briefed on the different cost estimates for the potential Moose Hill expansion project on Sept. 5
“Last Spring the School Board approved the Architects sending more detailed conceptual designs to the Trident Group who then worked with three different cost estimator experts to get a budget ready cost estimate on those conceptual designs,” Superintendent, Dan Black, wrote in a memo to the School Board.
Phase 1A and B of the project, which would address overcrowding needs, has a total estimated cost of about $23 million while phase 2 is expected to cost about $11 million.
Black in a memo to the School Board said the decision will need to be made about bringing any of the warrant articles to the ballot.
He said since the project is “much larger than last year’s Infrastructure Bond” he was recommending they make a decision sooner than December or January “so if it does make it to the March 2024 Warrant, there is enough time to explain the project to the community.”
After all the needed information is obtained, including future enrollment projections, Black in his memo said there are essentially three options for the School Board to decide on.
One of the options would simply to not bring the proposals to voters this year.
“There could be many factors that lead the School Board to decide to not bring the project to the voters,” Black said.
A second option would be to bring “the building project as one project solving many problems.”
“Having one project to vote on will be the easiest plan to explain to the voters,” Black said. “We would still need to explain that overcrowding and Full Day Kindergarten are two separate issues, but one project on the warrant basically says this is the cost to solve Moose Hill’s problems long term.”
A third option would be to have separate warrant articles for voters to take a vote on what would solve different problems at the school.
He stated that the one advantage by going that route would be to allow voters who are in support of funding the overcrowding problem, but may not support all day kindergarten.
“The problem with this approach is it will create multiple warrant articles and will be harder to make clear what we are asking for from the voters,” Black said. “The other problem is in theory some voters could vote to only solve full day kindergarten but not the overcrowding problem, which we do not have a good plan for at this time.”
Black added that one factor will be kindergarten enrollment going forward.
“Obviously, the current drop in kindergarten enrollment changes the dynamic of all the planning that has gone into the building project up to this point,” Black said. “The current conceptual design was built around a range of enrollment from 260 to 300 Kindergarten students (with some room to potentially go one or two kindergarten classrooms higher if needed).”
He explained that once there is a “better grasp on a new longer term projected enrollment for kindergarten, we could update our assumptions around the conceptual plans to be smaller in scale as needed.”
School Board member, Amanda Butcher, said she wanted to see the proposal as one warrant article in March.
School Board Chair, Bob Slater, said he wants the discussion to be revisited in October and wants to hear from the Kindergarten Committee and Moose Hill Building Committee.