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WVN #34: HSBC wants early vote; HS enrollment lower than expected

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  • waylandvoters2
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 11, 2004
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      Wayland Voters Network
      September 11, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter:


      Those are the headlines from the past week's High School Building
      Committee and School Committee meetings. Full reports follow.
      First, a few reminders:

      Re-broadcast of last week's forum with Democratic primary candidates
      for state rep., Stas Gayshan and John Thomas, Wayland Cable Channel,
      Sunday, Sept. 12, 7pm.

      Discussion of tax impact of new high school, Finance Committee,
      Monday, Sept. 13, 7:30pm, Town Building.

      State Primary Election, Tuesday, Sept. 14; contested Democratic
      primary races for Wayland's state representative and state senator.

      Broadcast of Sept. 9 HSBC meeting, Wayland Cable, Wednesday, Sept.
      15, 7pm.

      High School Building Committee meeting Sept. 9, 2004
      reported by WVN treasurer Michael Short


      The High School Building Committee wants a vote as soon as possible
      on its proposal for a new $56 million campus.

      Under a plan by HMFH Architects and Turner Construction Co., money
      would have to be approved before next March 1 in order to finish the
      project by the fall of 2009.

      Some HSBC members argued that Wayland voters should be asked to
      approve the entire project immediately. Others said it might be
      easier to put over a vote to authorize $3-4 million in design costs
      now and delay a decision on bonding the rest of the cost until the
      spring of 2006, possibly at Town Meeting. But the HSBC acknowledged
      that the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Finance Committee
      will determine the strategy.

      HSBC Chair Lea Anderson said it would be best not to vote on the
      school at the same time as a predicted operational override.

      Two votes might jeopardize the project, said Superintendent Gary
      Burton, but by January 2006 the guidelines on qualifying for state
      aid under the new SBA program should be known, and that would provide
      a clearer picture of the future.

      The Selectmen need 45 days of lead time to set a special election.
      Whether such an election will occur in late 2004 or early 2005,
      voters will have these facts to weigh:

      -- School officials say they need an increase in square footage of
      more than 80 percent largely because of an expected increase in
      students. Burton said the enrollment peak will come in three years,
      perhaps followed by a decline. But even under the best-case scenario,
      the new classrooms wouldn't be ready before the fall of 2007 and the
      common spaces in 2009. Burton said he may include six modular
      classrooms in his next operating budget. Meanwhile, high school
      enrollment for the new school year is below projections.

      -- There is no guarantee of a Wayland project receiving the state aid
      that made previous school building projects feasible, and certainly
      not the high percentage of previous reimbursement. Although the HSBC
      hopes for more than $18 million from the state, Wayland cannot apply
      for new SBA funding before July 1, 2007. If Wayland begins
      construction before state approval, the town proceeds at its own
      risk, and voters would have to approve the entire cost and hope for
      partial reimbursement later. Under the old program, Wayland had
      received SBA project approval before breaking ground.

      -- Wayland's record at bringing in recent construction projects on
      time and on budget is not encouraging.

      -- A larger campus would result in higher continuing operational

      In addition, voters want to know how the project will affect their
      taxes and the prospects for other town improvements called for in the
      Master Plan. How much can individual taxpayers afford and how much
      debt can Wayland carry responsibly?

      The HSBC will try to take a step toward answers by meeting on Sept.
      13 with the Finance Committee, which so far has been silent on the

      At the Sept. 9, meeting the HSBC repeatedly asked Turner and HMFH for
      cost reductions but at the same time declined to ask for cuts in the
      scope of the project. Members say their job is to carry out
      the "educational program," meaning the requirements defined by school

      "I don't think the numbers will go down," said HSBC member Steve
      Tise. "We're going to be lucky to hold to it." He
      mentioned "enormous environmental uncertainties," which he said could
      add costs exceeding any small cuts.

      Dick Amster of Turner said he had cut about 5,000 square feet from
      earlier plans in producing a two-phase scheme estimated at $55.781
      million. He said he could trim perhaps another 3,000 square feet by
      shrinking some room sizes.

      What the new campus would look like is still largely unknown except
      that there will be a lot of parking spaces. (The current 379 spaces
      would grow to 535, 623 or 670, depending on who was speaking.)

      Doug Sacra of HMFH said he has departed from the Option 3 concept
      plan (approved by the HSBC on August 5) showing one new building and
      a renovated field house because many adults and students want to
      preserve the present campus-like atmosphere. He said he was aware of
      the HSBC's mandate to contain costs, quoting a comment from committee
      member Dianne Bladon at a previous meeting: "'I'd like a campus but I
      wouldn't pay a nickel to have the campus.'"

      The next design from HMFH will show two new buildings and courtyard

      NEXT HSBC MEETING: Thurs., Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m., Town Building.

      School Committee meeting Sept. 7, 2004
      reported by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca


      At last Tuesday's School Committee meeting, Superintendent Gary
      Burton reported to the Committee that while attendance at most of
      Wayland's schools was in line with projections, the high school had
      lost 16 students as compared with projections. (898 vs. 914
      predicted.) Most of the reductions occurred in the incoming freshman
      class; last year's enrollment of 258 in the eighth grade yielded only
      232 high school freshmen.

      According to Burton, most of the reduction was the result of more
      students than usual choosing to attend private schools rather than
      Wayland High School. He speculated that the publicity about the
      problems with WHS buildings associated with the proposals for a new
      high school might have scared some students away. Members of the
      School Committee speculated that incoming high school candidates
      might have realized that they were likely to live through the
      unpleasantness of a construction zone throughout their careers at
      Wayland High, and graduate before seeing any benefits from the

      Burton commented that he does "not want to encourage students leaving
      the high school," and plans to call parents of students who made that
      choice and ask them why. Members commented that a lower high school
      population undermines part of their rationale for the new high school
      project. No one mentioned possible resulting cost savings as a
      benefit for the Town.

      In other news, Burton reported that the Claypit Hill roof is within a
      week of completion and it will be done within budget. The gym is
      nearly done and will be completed over the school holidays. The only
      remaining elementary school building issue to be addressed is the
      windows at Happy Hollow.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
      friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own
      copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters2@... and they
      will be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up
      by sending a blank email to waylandvotersnetwork-
      subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Click reply and send after receiving an e-
      mail confirming the subscription. Anyone who'd rather receive
      information from WVN by phone or regular mail should leave a message
      at (508) 358-9171.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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