Center School Forum Draws Large Crowd

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The School Committee hosted its third Public Forum to present information about Center School and the proposed new elementary school at Fruit Street in preparation for the upcoming Special Town Meeting on Monday, March 21, 2011. The event drew a large crowd comprised of staunch school supporters and those with questions and concerns about the future configurations of Hopkinton's schools. After touring Center School, the group gathered in the gymnasium for a question and answer session with school administrators and members of the School Committee.

According to School Committee member Jean Bertschman, the earlier forums drew questions about Center School, but more recently residents have had questions about districting. For that reason, the administrators from each school were present to answer questions.

Middle School Principal Alan Keller fielded one question about the transition to the Middle School and whether or not that transition would be more difficult with three district schools. Keller responded that he fully supported districting, felt that the district already did a good job in this area, and felt that the transition would work equally well with three district schools.

"I come from the perspective that I believe that reducing the number of transitions would enhance the education that we offer to our students."

Superintendent Phelan talked about some of the current issues with switching schools every two years.

"As you heard from some of the principals earlier, right now, every time it comes time for accountability of results, it's very easy for people to point fingers at each other, because they only have students for two years."

Several residents were concerned about parity among the schools, but Center School Principal Jen Parson pointed out that parity was already lacking when it came to Center School.

"This school, particularly, is overlooked when we talk about technology, because, it's well Jen, where will put these things in, you're already over capacity."

She briefly mentioned several of the problems with the building such as small classroom size, windows that don't open, elevator problems and uneven heat distribution. On the night of the meeting, the gymnasium at Center School was cold and the majority of those present kept their coats on throughout the meeting.

Other questions focused on the total future costs to achieve parity among the schools in terms of infrastructure and buildings and why the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) would only pay for the replacement of Center School. The answer from Phelan explained the restrictions imposed by the MSBA.

"We actually submitted Statements of Interest for all of our schools," said Phelan, "but the MSBA received so many requests from communities that they made each school district designate one school. We designated Center School."

Planning Board Chairman Joe Markey asked about how the town could do a better job of maintaining its schools and wanted to know why repairs and improvements identified at Elmwood School in 2006 were as yet unaddressed.

The meeting brought together residents with different viewpoints and perspectives. many of whom stayed to mingel and discuss the issues after the formal question and answer session had come to an end. School Committee member Jean Bertschman said she was pleased with the turnout and with the information provided.

“I think we had a fantastic turnout," said Bertschman. "I counted between 80 and 90 people that came which was terrific. There were a lot of questions," said Bertschman. "Most were questions that we had heard before, but I'm not sure everyone in the audience had heard before."

For more information, visit the District Webpage.

See below for the HCAM News video segment of the March 7th Center School Forum.