Framingham has an urgent need to address future overcrowding problems in the public schools, Superintendent Stacy Scott said last week as he presented details of a relocation plan to parents and the School Committee.
“The town is growing, and we’ll be over 9,000 students in a short period of time,” Scott told the school board and parents at its meeting Wednesday night.
His presentation on a proposal to move fifth-grade classes at the McCarthy and Brophy elementary schools to Fuller Middle School, and move several kindergarten classes to the King Administration Building, was greeted with skepticism by many parents in the audience.
“Most people I know at other schools are saying, ‘Thank God it’s not happening here,’ ” said Sheila Gaglione, who has a child attending McCarthy.
Scott said that other options were reviewed before the final version of the proposal was submitted earlier this month.
One option explored using portable (or modular) classrooms, but the team that developed the plan concludedthat they would be impractical, and in the event of a large upswing in enrollment, too costly, he said.
“If you add to a building and then you go over a certain number, you have to add new fire suppression systems on the entire building,” Scott said. “That would cost a couple million dollars.”
‘You have to look five, 10 years down the road to understand the need for these changes.’
Scott said Fuller Middle School,originallydesigned as a high school with room for up to 1,200 students, is well-suited to take on theadditional students.
The proposal also involves implementing a new science, technology, engineering, and math program at both the Fuller and King buildings, which that would include purchasing new Chromebook computers for fifth-graders at the Fuller School. Scott noted that the Chromebooks — which are small laptops that run Google software — could be purchased for about $250, a fraction of the cost of buying a desktop computer.
Jenine Lawton, a parent who distributed a letter following the meeting stating her opposition to the proposal, was concerned that giving Chromebooks to some studentsin the district and not all would only widen existing socioeconomic gaps among the schools in the system.
Scott, however, suggested that while not all students would have immediate access to the computers, a successful pilot program could allow for all to have them in the future.
“We’d like to be a wired town that enables kids at school and at home to have access to technology,” Scott said.
During the next few months, Scott said, he hopes to continue meeting with teachers, administrators, and parents about the details of the proposal, including at a School Committee meeting to be held on Tuesday.
Since the proposal was announced, Scott said, most of the questions that he has received from parents have been related to “misconceptions” about its details.
“You have to get down in the weeds about every room in the building,” he said, “you have to look five, 10 years down the road to understand the need for these changes.”
Although the presentation was intended for the School Committee’s members, few had questions for Scott about its details.
Committee member Carol Phalan asked what market data and models Scott and the group that prepared the proposal had studied, and committee vice chairman Dave Miles asked whether the town had any data regarding when fifth-graders were temporarily relocated to Fuller for a year, about a decade ago.
Scott said that he and his team had looked nationally to examples of other grade 5 through 8 programs, and said that he was not sure whether there was any data on the last time the students were relocated on a temporary basis.Dan Schneider can be reached at danieljoshuaschneider3@ gmail.com.