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Swampscott’s vision for schools clearer

SWAMPSCOTT – The School Master Plan Committee has narrowed down possibilities for school configuration from more than 20 possible configurations to five, according to Master Plan Committee Chairman Joseph Crimmins.”The important thing to note is we threw a very wide net,” he said. “We began by looking at every possible scenario. We knew some wouldn’t be acceptable to town but we wanted to look at everything. We had 20 or more possible scenarios.”Crimmins said the criteria that is weighing heavily into the decision process is need, values and cost.”The two overriding criteria that are driving the analysis are town need and community values,” he said. “We are striving for educational excellence. We need to configure schools in a way that is consistent with the best educational practices.”As for community values and concerns, Crimmins said some of the issues the committee is looking at are the concerns of parents.”We are looking at community preference for neighborhood schools versus grade configuration and traffic patterns.”Crimmins said in all five of the preferred options, the former middle school on Greenwood Avenue is considered surplus.”Obviously Greenwood and Machon are a concern because the buildings are currently offline,” he said. “If we conclude these facilities don’t fit into the long term master plan, we would recommend the School Committee vote to turn the property over to the town. The School Committee would have to vote as to whether to accept that recommendation. If it is turned over to the town it is up to the town to decide what to do with the property.”Some of the options include a neighborhood school option, which would utilize Clarke, Hadley and Stanley Elementary School for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. Students in fifth through eighth grade would attend the middle school on Forest Avenue. This option involves major construction projects at Hadley and Stanley.Crimmins said the second option is similar to the first, but it calls for major construction projects at Clarke and Stanley.The third option segregates students by grade with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at Clarke, first through fourth grade at Stanley and students in fifth through eighth grade would attend the middle school on Forest Avenue. The fourth option, which involves a major expansion project, would house all students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade at Stanley.The final option utilizes Stanley and the middle school on Forest Avenue for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. It would put Machon back online to serve as administrative offices.Crimmins pointed out all the recommendations, with the exception of turning surplus property over to the town, are years away from possible implementation.”This is a first step,” he said. “It would not result in any immediate dramatic change. I think it would take at least two or three years to even start implementing the changes and get these projects underway.”Crimmins said another big piece of the puzzle is the financial implications for each possible scenario.”Ultimately the financial issues will be decided by the town as a whole,” he said. “We’ll make recommendations with rough cost estimates and it would be up to the town as to whether it wants to fund those changes.”Crimmins said possible funding sources for the projects include state funding, grants, loans and the sale of surplus school buildings.Crimmins said it is important for residents to realize the committee is working closely with the Town Building Master Plan Committee to ensure a consistent series of recommendations are presented to the town.”We’re trying hard to make sure we don’t make a recommendation for a specific building that is contradicted by their recommendation,” he said.”We’ll have our recommendations ready to present at Town Meeting. Even though the committee has narrowed it down to five options it is not set in stone. We are seeking community input and will take community preferences into consid

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