SC Meeting: January 18, 2022

At the January 18 School Committee Meeting there was a Public Hearing on the FY 23 Budget, a FY 23 Budget Discussion on World Languages and Fine & Performing Arts, a Master Plan Facilities Update, and an Update on Health & Safety.


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FY23 Budget Request


At the January 18th School Committee the FY23 Budget was presented by Dr Gutekanst and can be broken down as the following:

  • Contractual Salary Increases: $1,858,890

  • Level Service: $612,213

  • Program Improvements: $1,203,298

The total FY23 budget reuquest is $3,674,401, a 4.4% increase over FY22 and Includes the addition of 25.82 FTE staff members.


During public comments Caren Firger, President of the Needham Education Association, spoke in support of the FY23 Budget.



School Committee Chair and Subcommittee Updates


The School Committee has created their own Facebook page to increase their presence on social media and allow interested parties to more easily find information about the School Committee. The page will solely be used to share information, no School Committee member will comment on the posts.



Budget Discussion: World Languages & Fine & Performing Arts


LeeAnn Sutton, Director of Fine & Performing Arts, and Elizabeth Zajac, Director of World Languages, presented their budget requests.


The Fine & Performing Arts program shared staffing numbers and an overview of the 54 different curricular classes offered in Art, Theater and Music across all grades. Co-curricular programs serve approximately 700 students, spanning from the Elementary level to the High School level and provides opportunities for students to delve deeper into an art form of their choosing. The Fine & Performing Arts program follow the Massachusetts Art Curriculum Framework where there are four anchor standards for artistic practices across disciplines:

  • CREATE original work aligned to artist’s intent

  • PRESENT artistic work to each other

  • RESPOND to the structure and context of artistic works

  • CONNECT the impact of the arts on oneself, history and culture

FY23 Budget requests include additional staff for the Theater programs at Pollard and the High School, a Fine & Performing Arts Program Coordinator, and the removal of elementary fees and allocate program costs to their Operating Account. The elementary instrumental program is the largest it has ever been with 438 enrollments (27 scholarships). Removing the fee would ensure the program is equitable and accessible to all in the community.


The World Languages program provide Spanish classes beginning in Kindergarten; Spanish, French & Mandarin during Middle School; and Spanish, French, Mandarin and Latin at the High School. 47 classes are offered in total.

FY23 budget requests include the opportunity for all 11th grade students to participate in the STAMP (Standardized Measure of Proficiency) Assessment, to provide high quality resources to support the Elementary Spanish program, and to provide sustained, personalized instructional support teachers at all grade levels.



Master Plan Facilities Update


Dore & Whittier Architecture were present to provide an update to the Master Plan timelines and enrollment projections, sharing variations on the Master Plan findings to resolve the capacity and facilities issues at Mitchell, the facilities issues at Pollard, resolve capacity issues at High Rock, and whether this will lower the financial investment to the town.


Study findings show that at the elementary level 126 classrooms is the minimum requirement but 132 classrooms would be ideal to allow for equity by providing space for special education, music, art and extended learning across the district. At the middle school, we currently have 86 classrooms with 101 classrooms needed to meet the minimum needs. The discrepancy is mostly at High Rock. The lack of space is currently causing scheduling difficulties.


About MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) projects:

The MSBA provides partial reimbursement (typically 30%) on approved school building projects. While the MSBA has provided funding for many previous NPS projects (including Sunita Williams), there is strong competition among school districts for limited resources and it is possible that Needham would not receive any funding this time around. The application and approval process for MSBA projects is also time consuming, which can slow down projects and add to annual cost escalations.


Dore & Whittier presented four options of where and how to house sixth grade:


Aa - Revised Status Quo

  • Mitchell as 1st MSBA project with a new 5 section school

  • Pollard as 2nd MSBA project remaining as a 7th & 8th grade school with an addition

  • High Rock as a non-MSBA project with an addition

E - New Status Quo

  • Mitchell as 1st MSBA project with a new 4 section school

  • Pollard as 2nd MSBA project remaining as a 7th & 8th grade school with an addition

  • High Rock as a non-MSBA project with an addition

  • Eliot as a non-MSBA project with an addition to create a 4 section school

C1a - High Rock as an Elementary & Pollard as a 6th-8th grade MSBA project

  • Pollard as 1st MSBA project housing 6th-8th grades

  • High Rock as a non-MSBA project creating a new 3 section elementary school

  • Mitchell as 2nd MSBA project creating a 3 section elementary school

D1a - High Rock as an Elementary & Pollard as a 6th-8th grade non-MSBA project

  • Pollard as a non-MSBA project housing 6th-8th grades

  • High Rock as a non-MSBA project creating a new 3 section elementary school

  • Mitchell as 2nd MSBA project creating a 3 section elementary school


*Green boxes indicate a major project

**Options A & E do not show the required temporary schools which are also major projects




Timeline, enrollment forecast, and cost for each scenario:


Aa Revised Status Quo (grade configuration)

  • Timeline

  • Mitchell project 04/23-09/30 ($122.8M), temporary project to be completed by 09/28 ($36.3M)

  • Pollard project 04/31-09/38 ($172.9M)

  • High Rock project 04/39-09/46 ($59.3M)

  • Enrollment Forecast

  • Mitchell comes on board in 2030 with a 5 section school with 126 classrooms

  • High Rock remains over capacity until 2046

  • Pollard addition allows more capacity until at least 2036

  • Total cost - $391.3M

E Status Quo

  • Timeline

  • Mitchell project 04/23-09/30 ($93.8M), temporary project to be completed by 09/28 ($36.3M)

  • Eliot project 04/31-09/38 ($172.9M)

  • High Rock project 04/39-09/46 ($59.3M)

  • Eliot project 11/47-09/53 ($30M)

  • Enrollment Forecast

  • Mitchell does not reach 126 classrooms until 2053

  • High Rock remains over capacity until 2046

  • Pollard addition allows more capacity until at least 2036

  • Total cost - $392.3M

C1a Pollard as 1st MSBA Project

  • Timeline

  • Pollard project 04/23-09/30

  • High Rock project 11/28-09/30

  • Mitchell project 04/31-09/36

  • Enrollment Forecast

  • Pollard will exist at current occupancy rates until 2030

  • High Rock will continue to be over capacity until 2030

  • Middle school over capacity fixed during 2029-2030 school year

  • Total cost - $327M

D1a Pollard 1st Project non-MSBA

  • Timeline

  • Pollard project 11/23-09/29

  • Mitchell project 04/27-09/34

  • High Rock project 11/27-07/30

  • Enrollment Forecast

  • Pollard will exist at current occupancy rates until 2030

  • High Rock will continue to be over capacity until 2030

  • Middle school over capacity fixed during 2029-2030 school year

  • Total cost - $219.7M


According to these projections, Plan D1a would be completed in the shortest amount of time and for the lowest cost.


School Committee Comments:

  • Dr Gutekanst requested that Dave Davison cost out each scenario in relation to the towns debt plan to help further streamline Master Plan options, and to also receive input from community members on February 8th.

  • Michael Greis voiced concerns over spending for temporary school options.

  • Andrea Longo Carter reiterated her support for the Plan D1a which the School Committee voted on last Fall.

  • Multiple comments were focused on routine maintenance of current schools, and how those costs are not factored into the Master Plan Scenarios. Further discussion was also focused on how multiple projects would affect students, especially those who may be impacted by a Mitchell project and then later with the Pollard project. Consideration should be given to the fact that MSBA funds are not guaranteed.



Update on Health & Safety

  • Over 93% of Pollard and High School students are fully vaccinated and over 84% of K-6 students have received one dose.

  • Staff and student attendance is slowly increasing as we progress through the month.

  • Contact tracing procedures have been modified, and further changes are being planned by DESE:

  • Contact tracing and the existing test & stay program will end, if rapid tests are provided

  • The district would need to start testing symptomatic students

  • Families & staff will need to “opt in” and agree to report test results

  • 10,000 KN95 masks have been distributed to staff.

  • The District is in the process of procuring 20,000 rapid tests for staff and students to:

  • Provide them with a scarce resource

  • Strengthen prevention efforts

  • Aid in the identification of positive cases

  • Build confidence in staff and students


The next School Committee Meeting is January 25, 2022.