Group Will Explore Possibility Of Moving 7th And 8th Graders To Sandwich High Next Year
By: Mary Stanley
Seventh and eighth graders in town may be moved to the high school as soon as next September, if Superintendent of Schools C. Richard Canfield gets his way.
This week, Dr. Canfield told the school board that he would like to move the students over to the high school next fall and begin the district’s new STEM Academy, which is a curriculum that is focused on science, technology, engineering, and math.
In April, a task force charged with considering what to do with the ailing Henry T. Wing School made a presentation to the school board in which it recommended closing down the school and changing the district’s current K to 8 system over to a K to 6 model with grades 7 through 12 housed at the high school.
This was one of the five options that consultant Philip J. Poinelli of Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates hired by the school department to conduct an in-depth study of all of the school buildings presented to the task force. With an expected cost of $16 to $20 million, it was far less expensive than any of the options that involved rehabbing or replacing the Wing school. The project, however, would take three to five years to complete.
But this week, Dr. Canfield told the board that he has come up with a sixth option, one that would require far less renovation work at the high school, thus allowing him to move the students into the A-Wing of the high school much sooner.
Though Dr. Canfield did not provide an estimate for his option, he said, the cost would be well below the multi-million dollar estimate that was attached with any of the other options on the table.
“After a walk-through of the high school building with our own people, we feel that we can move the 7th and 8th grade students to the high school and provide a good program without having to spend major amounts of money,” he said.
Dr. Canfield said the district’s Facilities Manager Alan J. Hall pointed out that much of the renovations needed to accommodate the 7th and 8th graders and the curriculum of a STEM Academy could either be done by school staff or by hiring subcontractors, when necessary.
Dr. Canfield did not specify which classrooms would need to be altered to accommodate the students but said at least two rooms on the second floor of the A-Wing would have to be converted to science laboratories. The younger students would still remain separated from the upperclassmen by having different passing schedules.
All three of the town’s elementary schools would remain open as K to 6 schools, though Dr. Canfield said at some point in the future, one of the schools may be closed if student enrollment across the Cape continues to decline. Deciding the best use of the Henry T. Wing School and any renovations needed for the Forestdale and Oak Ridge schools would be done in second phase of the project.
“I would recommend that we turn our attention away from spending money on the brick and mortar for the schools and instead, invest in a state-of-the-art program. It is my belief that if we focus our attention and our resources wisely, we can accomplish phase one and move grades 7 and 8 to Sandwich High School, for opening in September 2013,” Dr. Canfield said.
He told the board members that he has a committee of 20 people from the school department and the community who are willing to work on analyzing the logistics of moving the students into the high school and implementing the STEM Academy program.
In a telephone interview on Thursday morning, Dr. Canfield said, rather than spend the money to hire a consultant to consider the physical needs of the plant, the cost benefits of starting this program and the curriculum needs of the program, he is using the talents of people who live and work here. Among those on the committee are finance committee member Linda Bliss, Charter Review Committee member Robert James, Mr. Hall, the high school’s science department chairman Gil Newton, and principals from the three K toh 8 schools and the high school.
He said the committee will consider everything that needs to be done so that the high school will be ready to accommodate the new students and the STEM program next September, including staffing needs, technical resources, and any necessary renovations that will be needed at the high school.
School member Anita M. Johnston asked if the school department’s central office, which is currently located in the high school, would have to move.
Dr. Canfield said he would prefer to keep the offices in the high school. However, he said, if the success of the program requires that those offices be relocated, he would do so.
Committee member Robert P. Catalini pointed out that Dr. Canfield’s plan still has some renovation costs that will be needed, including creating science labs on the second floor of the A-Wing. He said there are School Building Authority funds available in which the state would cover nearly 50 percent of those renovation costs.
Committee member Marie A. Kangas said there could be a return on the investment. She said if students are already at the high school in grades 7 and 8, there may be less desire to choose to attend a high school in a different town or a charter school.
“Any startup costs will be well worth the money, especially if it means keeping our kids in our schools here and decreasing the costs we taxpayers spend to send students elsewhere,” Ms. Kangas said.
Dr. Canfield told the school board that the 20 member committee will begin meeting on September 6. He said the committee will be broken up into different groups that will be researching and analyzing the cost benefits, the program requirements, and the facility needs of the program.
Dr. Canfield will present the details of this project as well as the cost analysis to the school board at a future meeting. The school board will need to approve the move.