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Longer View of Space Needs Solutions Sought by School Officials

An architect presented options for modular and permanent additions Monday.

The potential addition of 24 classrooms to Braintree's elementary schools may not materialize until the 2014-2015 school year, allowing time for a decision on modular or permanent structures and for the state's input on funding.

School Committee members voted Monday night to move their space needs discussion to the School Building Committee, consisting of school and town officials and community representatives.

The shift means that a detailed plan can be finalized, though it also means additional classrooms space will likely not be available next fall as proposed earlier this year. Architect Steve Habeeb, whose firm created last year's study of new schools, additions and upgrades, laid out three options for the committee.

For each, the cost represents what the town would potentially pay for four of the classrooms. The classrooms would be 900 square feet, within the state's recommendation for grades 1-6 of 900 to 1,000 square feet.

Only two of the options – the steel-framed additions – offer a realistic expectation that the Massachusetts School Building Authority would offer the town a 48 percent funding match, Habeeb said.

  • Wood-framed modular. $657,800 (no match). If begun Feb. 2013, complete Nov. 2013.
  • Steel-framed modular. $618,332. If begun Feb. 2013, complete Jan. 2014.
  • Steel-framed site built. $642,970. If begun Feb. 2013, complete Feb. 2014

It is unlikely, however, that construction would begin this month because officials still have to make a decision on which route to take, the architects and engineers would need time to check on existing building systems, soil data and building codes, and the MSBA would likely not be able to partner with the town so quicky.

In the meantime, committee members also approved the use of half of Monatiquot School for up to five more full-day kindergarten classrooms next year, in addition to the three slated for the high school and potentially one each at Hollis and Morrison.

The proposal to add four classrooms at each elementary school prompted member Pam Kiley to wonder whether some schools need would need even more space. At Liberty Elementary School, for example, Kiley said she would anticipate that the rooms would fill immediately with current students.

"That doesn't do anything about our music that is out in a hallway, art that is in a cart," Kiley said.

Habeeb said that without a much more detailed population study, it is impossible to predict where exactly the expected influx of students will arrive in Braintree.

Kiley agreed that the process should be slowed somewhat so that the town can effectively examine its needs. She and Dr. Kurzberg said that perhaps an even longer-term solution would be to construct a new school and re-district.

That would also include ongoing efforts to upgrade East and the elementary schools as the district did with South three years ago, Dr. Kurzberg said.

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