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School Board Mulls $85 Million Referendum for New School, Grade Realignment

New Pre-K to 5 elementary school, realignment of grades planned

Sampson-G-Smith-School

The Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School would be realigned to a middle school under the school board’s proposed referendum.

The Board of Education is preparing to “market” to residents a proposed $85 million referendum which would result in a new elementary school and a realignment of elementary and middle school grade configurations.

Plans are drawn for the work, which includes about $45 million for a new Pre-Kindergarten to 5th grade school on Claremont Road – designed to hold between 960 and 1,070 students –but a date has not yet been set to ask voters if they want to fund the project.

That’s because a series of grant applications that had already been submitted to the state were rescinded at the Aug. 22 school board meeting in favor of a new set of applications, and decisions on those applications are not expected until December. The district is vying for a share of $500 million in newly available state funds.

If the district hears anything by December, the referendum could be held as early as March.

In addition to the new elementary school, the district plans to expand Samson G. Smith and Elizabeth Avenue schools and renovate all other schools, except for the high school.

The renovations and expansions will result in Samson G. Smith and Franklin Middle schools being grade 6-8 middle schools, and Hillcrest, Pine Grove Manor, Conerly Road, McAfee and Franklin Park and its annex being Pre-Kindergarten to grade 5 schools.

Schools Superintendent Edward Q. Seto said the district’s current configuration – Pre-Kindergarten to 4th grade schools, 5th and 6th grade schools, 7th and 8th grade schools and a 9-12 high school — presents problems, especially with the 5th and 6th grades in one school.

Educational approaches and even scheduling are different for the two, he said, because the 5th grade uses an elementary school approach while the 6th grade uses a middle school approach.

Also, making students move to new schools so often can impact their education, he said.

“Grade configuration matters,” Seto said.

Aspects of that work have increased the referendum’s price tag over the last few months, SSP Architects’ Jeanne Perantoni told the board at the August meeting.

In March, the referendum’s two questions totaled $79,665. As of the August meeting, the total is $84,900,000, she said.

The new Claremont Road school’s cost went from $40.9 million to $5 million, she said, with the bulk of that increase attributable to site development.

“Other money will be going to road access, circulation and traffic improvements,” Perantoni said.

The Samson G. Smith’s expansion cost grew from $11.9 million to $12.6 million, she said.

Work at the Elizabeth Avenue school increased from $13.5 million to $14.2 million, she said.

Most of the Smith and Elizabeth Avenue work deals with ventilation units, she said.

Perantoni told the board that state grants the district could receive could lower the impact on Franklin taxpayers to less than what it would have been if the referendum were still $79.7 million.

The board’s marketing effort to gain support for the referendum will emphasize that it will ease overcrowding, reduce the number of times kids have to change schools and make school buildings safer, as well as end the district’s decades-old reliance on trailers for elementary school classrooms.

There are about a dozen trailers in use now, Seto said.

He said the roughly 8,000-student district is estimated to increase by about 800 students over the next five years.

What do you think?

Schools Superintendent Edward Seto and the school board say the district needs to renovate older schools and build a new elementary school to accommodate what is a growing student population. Would you support the referendum?

Your Thoughts

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