Brunswick board seeks solutions to growing elementary school population

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BRUNSWICK — Faced with a growing student population at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, the School Board is mulling temporary solutions for what could become a bigger problem next school year.

So far, the board has heard two proposals: build more mobile classrooms at Coffin Elementary School, or move the fifth grade to Brunswick Junior High School.

The issue was discussed at the board’s Facilities and Maintenance Committee meeting on Monday, where the panel also learned that the site of the former Jordan Acres Elementary School is viable for new school construction.

Based on recent figures, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said he anticipates Stowe will reach nearly 720 students by the 2014-2015 school year, which will place the school over its 660-pupil capacity.

The proposed construction of a new elementary school will help address the population issue in the long term, Perzanoski said, but it won’t be ready for up to five years.

“We have to plan and get ready in case student enrollment continues to go up or starts to gain at a higher rate,” he said. “… It could be five years until a new facility is ready. We hope that’s not the case, but it could be.”

The superintendent said the scenarios discussed Monday are considered the least disruptive to students and staff. Others could be aired as the department continues to research the issue, Perzanoski said.

The first scenario would require removing four existing mobile units at Coffin, and replacing them with eight new modulars. The second grade would then move into the temporary classrooms.

“That’s not saying we believe in mobile units, nor do we want them,” Perzanoski said. “But as a solution, we need to be aware of the costs to do that by taking out those older-than-myself portable classrooms.”

Perzanoski said the School Department will also research needs for staffing, special education, food service, transportation, custodial services and professional development.

The second scenario would move the fifth grade to the junior high school, where enrollment is declining.

Under this scenario, Perzanoski said, the School Board would have to consider whether to keep the fifth-grade classes in separate, self-contained classrooms.

If fifth-grade students are integrated with older students, he said, the board would have to consider the impact on the school’s culture.

Perzanoski said he expects to have formal proposals for the School Board to act on by March 2014, which would allow the School Department to be ready for a larger student population by September 2014.

New elementary school

Earlier in the meeting, Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects revealed that a new elementary school could be constructed on the site of the former Jordan Acres Elementary School, based on a recent assessment.

The new school would have pre-kindergarten through second-grade classes.

The School Board decided to pursue the idea of building a new school instead of renovating Coffin Elementary School after it learned there could only be a $4 million cost difference between the two options.

Keck said the cost of a new elementary school, which was estimated at $22 million earlier this year, will emerge at the beginning of next year. A borrowing proposal for new school construction could go to referendum by November 2014.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.