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The Future of Holliston High School

by Yvette Cain
January 16, 2019

Is Holliston High School currently meeting the needs of the 21st century learner?  This was the question Dr. Brad Jackson explicated in his 45-minute presentation “The Future of Holliston High School:  Beginning a Community Conversation.”

Staci Raffi welcomed and thanked the audience and HCAT for providing coverage for those following along at home.

Dr. Jackson’s recommendation concerning the future of Holliston High is two-fold:  the community needs data (in the form of a feasibility study) and a partner, that being the MA School Building Authority (MSBA) in order to make an informed decision about HHS’s future.    

A Statement of Interest is a Superintendent-submitted form outlining perceived deficiencies of a school building and ways those deficiencies fit within the priorities of the School Building Authority Program.  Dr. Jackson’s opinion is that HHS meets the following two deficiencies: “Modernize building systems to increase energy conservation and /or decrease energy costs”; “Building no longer provides for full-range of programs consistent with state and local educational requirements.” 

Stacey Raffi, Chair of the School Committee, explained that the School Committee have voted to approve the submission of a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the MA School Building Authority to set in motion a feasibility study that would validate, disagree with, or add to the Superintendent’s needs assessment. 

The Statement of Interest is strictly a statement of the problem—it is not solution focused.  There is no cost associated with its submission, but both the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen must vote to authorize the Superintendent to make this submission.  The deadline for this year’s submission is late March—early April 2019.  Last year the Board of Selectmen declined to authorize Jackson’s submission of a SOI.  Jackson feels it is “time for Holliston to take advantage of this program. 

The mission of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (funded by $0.01 of the State’s 6.25% sales tax) is “collaboration with municipalities to equitably invest in finding the right-sized, most fiscally responsible and educationally appropriate solutions to create safe, sound, and sustainable learning environments.”  The minimum funding provided by MSBA is 31%.  

If a SOI is approved, the resulting feasibility study would investigate potential options and solutions, including costs estimates to the school’s deficiencies and issues.  It includes an engineering study of the building and the site systems, and is performed by qualified architects experienced in school building design and analysis, as well as qualified building engineers, landscape architects, and other specialists.

Dr. Jackson’s presentation entailed a bit of history, an update on prior renovations, and a snapshot of the present Holliston High School.  Returning to a 1967 photo of the projected HHS, Jackson spoke of the 1969 Program of Studies that HHS was built to deliver.  Fifty years have brought much change to education, with student-centered, project based, and collaborative all indicators of the current instructional model: a model now at odds with a 1969 building.

The 1998-2001 $26M renovation project that included infrastructure replacement, a facilities upgrade, and some cosmetic improvements were reviewed prior to Jackson’s presentation of  “Short-term Infrastructure Needs.”  (This listing is to be available on-line at the school website on January 16.) Items on this list include needs such as “replace septic system with wastewater treatment facility,” “replace single-pane window units,” “install air-conditioning in 2nd floor classrooms and library media center.”  The total estimated cost for these 16 items is $11,550,000, “just to keep the facility usable.”  Jackson said that deficiencies could be addressed separately or with a more comprehensive solution.  Either way, the feasibility study would offer a more complete final report to Holliston. 

Following Jackson’s presentation, each member of the School Committee explained his or her reasoning for approval of submitting a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the MSBA.  Andy Morton voted to approve an SOI because “some things we don’t do well for our students.”  He likes the no cost feature of the feasibility study.  Additionally, he claims that “every year puts us significantly behind” if needs are not addressed.

Joan Shaughnessy voted for an SOI because of the absence of risk: there is not a financial obligation to the town.  Martha Devoe, concerned that the Board of Selectmen did not support it in 2018, felt that “the process last year needed to be broader.” She was hoping for a more informed and thorough process this year, including increased community awareness.  Anne Louise Hanstad echoed this opinion by saying the feasibility study showed “prudent fiscal management.” Cynthia Listewnik questioned how long $11M invested in short-term infrastructure needs would last before more short-term fixes would be necessary. 

Stacey Raffi reminded, everyone that approving a SOI would be only the first step. 

A school district typically submits a Statement of Interest multiple years, as a 1st year acceptance is unlikely.  In 2018, the MSBA received 70 SOI’s from 56 school districts and approved 8.  Chelmsford submitted for 3 years and Stoneham for 6 years prior to approval.  If approved by the MSBA, Holliston would receive helpful feedback from the feasibility study about its needs in the form of a final report that would detail multiple options for the community to consider with analysis of each option. 

An audience question and answer period followed, displaying various degrees of awareness of the needs of HHS and many concerns if those needs are not addressed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments (2)

Ms. Haley:

If Holliston is invited to enter into the Feasibility Study by the MSBA, the cost of the Feasibility Study would be shared by Holliston and the MSBA with the MSBA assuming a minimum of 31% of the cost. Funding Holliston's portion of the Feasibility Study would, at a minimum, require a vote at Town Meeting to appropriate the funds. If funding Holliston's portion of the Study required either a exemption from the provisions of Prop 2 1/2, then it would also require a vote at either the Annual Town Election or at a Special Election called exclusively for that purpose.

- Bradford Jackson | 1/17/19 1:38 PM

Thank you for this information. One question - if the Statement of Interest is approved by the MSBA, who pays the costs of the feasibility study.

- Susan Haley | 1/16/19 11:13 AM

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