During last night’s Board of Education meeting, board members discussed several items regarding building renovations throughout the district:
- Building subcommittee chair Karen Birck reported that the Middlebrook roof renovation project was completed on budget.
- Birck reported that unfortunately not all of the planned bathroom renovations at Middlebrook and Wilton High School were completed–they were not able to renovate as many bathrooms as hoped under the budget that had passed last year.
- The proposed Miller-Driscoll school renovation is proceeding along a slow-moving schedule, with an architectural firm named to create schematic designs for a potential renovation—Tai Soo Kim Partners, LLC. The building subcommittee has scheduled a tentative Oct. 1 focus group for parents. Among some of the issues they want to examine is the question of portable classrooms;
- Birck paid complement to the architects and engineers with regard to how they are proceeding, “In order to get a fuller understanding of our program and how the existing space is used and what is needed, our architects have taken a unique approach, embedding themselves in each grade for an entire day. They are trying to be a fly on the wall, to learn about our program, learn how the spaces are used, where it’s sufficient, where it’s insufficient. They have also scheduled meetings with preschool staff, the K-2 administration and the specials teachers.”
Birck noted that the progress is intentionally slower, in order to “take the time we need to fully understand the issues before making critical decisions. We are about a month behind schedule where we thought we’d be.” She reported that it took longer to narrow down and check references and do site visits of the architectural candidates in order to select Tai Soo Kim, and “to get the blessing of the Board of Selectmen added one month on the process.”
- She added that they’re proceeding slowly because, “We need to look at all the issues and somehow come up with a[n overall project] cost , so that when we go to the town for approval, we have an estimate that will be good. We don’t want the same problem we ran into with the restrooms where the estimates were not right.
Likly asked about a figure some parents have floated about the potential overall cost for the Miller-Driscoll renovation, saying he’s heard $28 million “tossed around–$14m one year, $14m next year. Birck replied that based on a figure given to the building subcommittee from the Board of Selectmen, they asked potential architecture candidates to bid on a project in the range of $32-35 million for the complete cost. “That was the number people bid on. We don’t know yet if that’s the right amount of money.”
The BoE also heard from Casey Healy, the lawyer representing town residents proposing to privately fund the installation of a turf athletic field at Middlebrook. Without a formal vote, the BoE decided to support the field-to-turf plan, and Likly added he will write a letter supporting the project.
Director of financial planning and operations for the schools, Ken Post, presented his financial report for the schools to the board. One of the major items he told them was that the report ending June 2013 shows an operating deficit of $624,569. As part of the discussion, covering factors that impacted the figures–including health care costs, salaries, and special education outplacement and litigation costs–Likly asked about the possibility of creating a reserve fund for special education. Currently any overages from money reimbursed by the state gets returned to the town, rather than reapplied directly to the budget needs of the schools. Richards noted that California law requires ending budget balances of 3% in case of situations like that. But Richards also cautioned that there might be charter implications with the town. Post said he would would talk to the town CFO about that.