School committee pares list of upgrades for April 2017 vote
Plans for a possible referendum on upgrades to Grafton School District buildings have been narrowed to two options by the Facilities Advisory Committee.
The committee, which has been meeting for several months following a failed April referendum, pared a list of nine upgrade options presented last month by Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction.
During an Oct. 5 meeting, the committee agreed to sharpen its focus on two plans:
n Option A, which calls for razing Grafton Elementary School, renovating and expanding Kennedy and Woodview elementary schools and upgrading John Long Middle School.
The Kennedy and Woodview upgrades would be done to accommodate more 4K to fifth-grade students.
The option also calls for major renovations and additions to Grafton High School, including upgrades to the science, technology, engineering and math, fine arts, technical education and physical education facilities.
n Option B, which calls for razing Grafton Elementary School and the district office and building a middle school at the site in a campus combining the middle and high schools.
Under this plan, Kennedy School would be used as the district office, with Woodview School renovated to become a 4K and kindergarten school. John Long School would be used for first through fifth-grade classes.
The high school would also receive extensive additions and upgrades.
Both options call for repairs and maintenance work in all district buildings, along with districtwide security upgrades.
The committee was formed after voters in April rejected borrowing $47.7 million for districtwide upgrades and another $1.8 million to upgrade outdoor physical education, athletic and recreation areas. In addition to touring district facilities and discussing new options, the committee is exploring ways to trim projected costs: $46.14 million for Option A and $49.49 million for Option B.
“That will be a challenge,” Committee Chairman Paul Lorge told the School Board Monday. “If anything, the costs will go up.”
Lorge, who also serves as School Board treasurer, noted that Hoffman representatives have indicated actual costs may be as much as 10% higher than the estimates. Inflation and a bidding environment that now favors contractors have been cited as factors.
“The supply of contractors is tightening as more school districts are undertaking upgrades,” Lorge said.
Sam Statz, Hoffman’s vice president of construction, told the committee that an April 2017 referendum could have a price tag of as much as $55 million.
In response, committee members agreed to continue exploring ways to fine-tune upgrade options. Hoffman has been asked to present more detailed designs and updated cost estimates, Lorge said.
Pending a review of the updates, the committee will schedule several community listening sessions to obtain residents’ input. The goal, Lorge said, is to have the committee make a recommendation to the School Board in a November/December time frame.
Supt. Jeff Nelson said the listening sessions will be critical, noting the cost impact on taxpayers was a major factor in the failed spring referendum. “We should be able to get a really good dialogue,” he said.
The district also plans to conduct another community survey on referendum options before deciding on specifics for an April 2017 referendum. Despite the failure of this year’s referendum questions, a 2015 survey showed a majority of respondents supported upgrading district facilities.
“The last survey indicated that something should be done,” Lorge said. “We can agree on that.”