Survey Results Provide No Clear Cut Option for Center School

michelle's picture

The School Committee met jointly with the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, January 4, to present the results from the Elementary School Building Survey. Out of the seven hypothetical solutions presented in the survey, no one option emerged as a clear winner, but the option to expand at the Elmwood location and to renovate and expand the existing location at Center School were the two options that appeared to have the most community support. What did come through clearly was the lack of support for any form of districting.

The survey results were presented by Paul Flaxman, Vice President of Boston Research Group, who went through the details meticulously, and explained that the survey was designed to determine the community’s perspective on three main issues:
1) The importance of specific attributes/goals as they relate to Center School,
2) The degree to which these attributes drive preferences, and
3) The reactions to seven hypothetical solutions to Center School.

Using the data collected from the recently held community forums, a list of 22 attributes was developed and the importance of these topics was measured. Also measured was the degree of urgency for a solution to the Center School problem and the relationship between the 22 attributes and the seven hypothetical solutions was also explored.

The list of 22 attributes was broken down into three separate categories; physical Facility and location, educational priorities, and timing & taxes. The two most important attributes related to facility and location were addressing the heating and cooling problems at Center School (70%) and appropriate sizing for present and future use (61%). The top two educational priorities focused on appropriate room sizes for effective teaching (64%) and does not employ a districted approach (61%). According to Flaxman, longer grade spans were “not a hot button.”

All of the timing and taxes issues were important to more than 40% of respondents, but a good long term investment topped the list (77%) for tax issues. Regarding urgency, only 23% of respondents considered a solution for Center School to be a much higher priority than other town projects, 38% rated it a higher priority and 26% said it was equal in priority to other projects in town.

Of the seven hypothetical solutions, the goal was to determine which option would be the most viable or easiest to pass at Town Meeting, but Flaxman said the School Committee had a hard problem.

“I haven’t seen a single solution that said ‘This is easy’,” said Flaxman. “This is tough.”

Flaxman also explained that three themes run through the Center School challenge. The first theme is what he called” townwide” schools, meaning not districted and located in center of town/near other schools. The second theme he called “pocketbook” issues, related to impact on taxes and total cost to the town over time. And the third theme was “sound educational investment”, meaning long term solution, addresses heating and cooling issues, appropriate room sizes and MSBA eligibility. According to Flaxman, any proposed solution has to be looked at against these themes.

“The way to get something passed is to satisfy the population on all three themes,” said Flaxman.

The most popular of the hypothetical solutions, to expand Elmwood School to house two separate school populations (Pre-K-1 and 2-3) was still opposed by 23% of respondents. It rated high in terms of sound educational investment and townwide, but since no costs were provided, the effect on pocketbook was unclear.

The second most popular hypothetical solution, to renovate and expand Center School to improve facility and achieve educational standards was opposed by 26% of respondents and came up short when it came to being a sound educational investment. It scored well for townwide and was considered a win for pocketbook, but Flaxman cautioned that this must be confirmed.

The option of a K-3 school at Fruit Street, previously suggested as a compromise to the failed K-5 school at Fruit Street, did not fare well with 60% of respondents opposed.

With regard to districting, Flaxman said it had to go away.

In addition to the results of the survey, Flaxman also reviewed the methodology. The survey was a structured survey, meaning that there were no open ended questions. The survey was launched on November 21, 2011 via ListServ, the school’s email distribution list, with an insert in the Hopkinton Independent and through press releases to local media outlets. A second invite was issued on November 28 using the same methods as well as a postcard invitation mailed to every household in Hopkinton. They survey ended on December 6, 2011. While primarily web-based, paper surveys were available at the Senior Center and the Library.

A total of 1,279 surveys were completed and after data “cleaning”, a total of 1,208 completed surveys were used for Flaxman’s analysis. Flaxman also explained how responses were weighted to adjust for the fact that the sample was not random.

“A random sample is one in which each and every individual has an equal chance to participate in the survey,” said Flaxman.

Using Listserv to invite participants is not a random sample, and while efforts were taken to broaden the sample (paper surveys, press releases, insert in Hopkinton Independent, postcard to every household), it did not reflect the universe of registered voters.

To read the presentation, please see the Powerpoint attached below.

To watch the full presentation which was broadcast live by HCAM, Click Here.