Sunday, January 23, 2011

School Committee: Space Needs Subcommittee Report


January 25, 2011

Sub-Committee Members: Roberta Trahan (Chair), Cindy Douglas, Paula Mullen; Sally Winslow, Assistant Superintendent


The Space Needs Sub-Committee (SNSC) at the August 10, 2010 School Committee meeting requested further direction from the full School Committee relative to its charge.

In consideration of the budget reductions that the district has experienced for the past several years, cognizant of the need to provide equity among students throughout the district, the SNSC was asked to review the following questions:

- Have population shifts and budget reductions resulted in an imbalance in the classrooms of our schools throughout the district?

- Is there enough of an imbalance so that we need to redistrict some or all of our students?

- Is the answer to this question dependent upon the School Committee decision on whether to adopt half-day Kindergarten as opposed to the full-day program currently offered?

- In reviewing these questions, please quantify the imbalance and report on all available options to the School Committee by November 1, 2010.

Question #1: Have population shifts and budget reductions resulted in an imbalance
in the classrooms of our schools throughout the district?

Both populations and enrollment numbers demonstrate slight decreases. Data comparing enrollment totals of 10/30/09 to those of 10/30/10 show a decrease of 31 students at the elementary level, a decrease of 48 at the middle school level and an increase of 23 students at the high school level. While enrollment at Francis X. O’Regan Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) has increased by 23 students and enrollment at Davis Thayer has increased by 25 students since last year at this time, enrollment figures at the other five elementary schools have decreased. The total decrease in enrollment figures between 2009-10 and 2010-11 is 56 students. (See enrollment comparison 10-30-09 to 10-29-10).

Class sizes at the elementary level range from as low as seventeen (17) students in a class to as high as twenty-seven (27). Discrepancies are noted within certain schools and within specific grade levels. Grant funds from the Job Bills Act brought temporary relief for the current school year by allowing the district to hire five additional classroom teachers at specific schools (Parmenter grades 5 and 3; Kennedy grade 3; Davis Thayer grades 3 and 4) thereby reducing class sizes in those grades. Given the precarious nature of the economy as well as the budget forecast for the FY 2012 school year, those positions will likely be eliminated, causing class sizes to revert back to their original numbers. According to the data, the current, average class size at the elementary level is 24; at the middle school 26; and at the high school 27.

At this time, there are minor imbalances in the numbers at each school which have developed because of teacher reductions, program reductions, and increased class sizes at specific grade levels. This has contributed to the number of classrooms that are now not in full use on a daily basis, thus resulting in some empty spaces. We will first review the use and condition of modular classrooms at the elementary schools and then discuss current use of classroom space.


In reviewing options for available space at the various schools, the SNSC felt it was important to first review both the use and life span of the modular classrooms at Davis Thayer, Jefferson, John F. Kennedy and Gerald M. Parmenter Schools and address the questions, “If we remove the modulars, what will the impact be? Will we have enough space to service the students currently enrolled? Can we absorb them into their current buildings or another school within the district?” It should be noted that there is one remaining modular at FHS still in use which will be addressed with the high school renovation project.

Davis Thayer School
Although visually not the most appealing from the outside, the modular classrooms at Davis Thayer are probably in the best condition of all. There are four modulars which house three fifth grade classes and one kindergarten class. An estimated that 91 students are housed in the modulars at Davis Thayer School who would be impacted if these were removed. It is important to note that the Davis Thayer School modulars were declared surplus in 2008 not due to the condition, but due to aesthetics and the ability to house additional students within the building.

Jefferson School
None of the four modulars at Jefferson School are designated as full-time, grade level classrooms. One room is used to service English Language Learners (ELL students); the second is a shared as a special education resource room and speech/vision services therapy space; the other two modulars are utilized by Solutions—one as a classroom space and the second as an office space. Similar to Parmenter, the condition of the modulars at Jefferson School continue to deteriorate. However, because these portables do not house grade level classrooms, the impact of removing these modulars would not be significant in terms of student displacement.

John F. Kennedy School
Housing approximately 45 students, John F. Kennedy School has four modular classrooms that are in moderate condition. One modular is used for a second grade classroom and one is used for a fifth grade classroom. The other two modulars are used for music and ELL. The carpets in all four classrooms need replacement.

Gerald M Parmenter School
There are six modular classrooms at the Gerald M Parmenter School. Four of the modulars are used as full-time classrooms—three fourth grade classrooms and one fifth grade classroom. Four of the six modulars are leased. Solutions uses one of the modulars for before and after school programming, and this room is used for special education testing and small group instruction during the school day. The last modular is used to provide occupational therapy and physical therapy (OT/PT) services to students with special needs. The modulars at Parmenter are probably in the worst condition of any of the modulars in the district and would likely need to be the first taken down. If we were to remove the portable classrooms at Parmenter School, we estimate that this would impact approximately 85 students.


Due to the budget cuts in recent years, the number of classrooms in use has diminished. Principals continue to use classroom space within the buildings for meetings, English Language Learner (ELL) instruction, small group instruction, office space, and additional sub-separate instruction. It is not the intent of the SNSC to show that all the classroom space not in use as traditional classroom space is surplus. It is the goal of the report to illustrate how space is currently being used and to determine where students now housed in modulars can be absorbed back into the original buildings.

Elementary Space

Davis Thayer School
Having served the town as a school since 1924, several modifications have been made to Davis Thayer School. Currently there are several small rooms on the second and third floor that could be combined easily by removing dividing non-structural walls. On the third floor there are two small rooms that could be made into a full-size classroom. There are two full size rooms not in use during the day that could be reclaimed as classroom space; one on the first floor used by Solutions and an empty room on the second floor. Given the space within the building, the 91 students in the modulars could be re-absorbed into the rooms of the main building.

A caveat to reorganizing space at Davis Thayer School - Based on the School Committee’s decision to keep Davis Thayer School open, the town may invest money into the school by adding an elevator and other minor upgrades to the building. The addition of the elevator may compromise available space. Since the condition of the modulars at Davis Thayer is still quite good as noted earlier in this document, it may make most sense to leave these modulars in place until a decision about renovation is reached.

Helen Keller School
Four to Five rooms are available within Keller Elementary. There are two Solutions rooms that are used only for before and after school activities. In addition there is also a health and SPED room that could be converted to extra classroom space if needed. Helen Keller also has one room dedicated to the BICO program. As the town receives revenue from this space, it is the recommendation of the SNSC to continue to lease this space to BICO.

Jefferson School
One of the newer buildings in the district, Jefferson has three rooms that are not being used as fulltime classroom space. Since none of the modulars are used as classrooms, there is no need to relocate students if the modulars are removed.

John F. Kennedy School
As has been the case for several years, there is no extra space at the crowded John F. Kennedy School. Along with holding classes in the modulars, the Music room is also housed there. In addition to finding space to house current modular students, consideration should also be given to providing room within the building for a dedicated music room and a proper space for OT/PT which is currently taking place in a storage/book room. This will allow for parity among all the buildings.

Oak Street School
The newest school in the district, Oak Street School has the most available space. Currently there are twelve classrooms being used for other purposes. There is a Solutions room that is used only before and after school, two EA rooms, a health and a speech room that can be repurposed for general classroom space. Additionally there is a bookroom, Teacher’s work room, ELL room, two SPED rooms and two SPED subseparate rooms.

Gerald M. Parmenter School
Two classrooms at the Gerald M. Parmenter School are in use as self-contained SPED classrooms, another as a SPED resource room. There is also one classroom used for small group SPED instruction, one for a speech/SPED office, and one as a Title I reading room. If some of these programs can be relocated to other schools, this would free space up within Parmenter to move students currently housed in the modulars. As noted earlier three teachers were added to Parmenter this year, given that they were hired with onetime funds, those positions most likely will not be funded next year. This will also free up some space within the building. Considering that Parmenter has the leased modulars and those in the poorest condition, it is recommended that these modulars be removed first.

Francis X. O’Regan Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC)
Two classrooms are available at the ECDC; one used by Life Long Learning for scheduled Mommy and Me programs during the day and one room not in use at all.

Middle School Space

Remington Middle School
At Remington Middle School there are six former classrooms now used for other purposes such as SPED rooms, meeting room, and an office for the reading specialist.

Annie Sullivan Middle School
Seven classrooms within Annie Sullivan Middle School are now being used for other functions, six are used for SPED services and one is used for counseling services.

Horace Mann Middle School
While the ECDC and Oak Street sections of this building have significant space, there are only two available classroom spaces within the Horace Mann area of the complex; one health room and the math specialist classroom. Further, the district-wide middle school sub-separate program is housed in the Oak Street section of the building.

High School Space

Franklin High School
The Franklin High School space needs were not assessed nor included in this report given the building renovation project currently in the initial planning stages. It is noteworthy that during the 2010-11 school years, space at Franklin High School has been given to the Alternative Learning Program, which moved back to FHS from Emmons Street, as well as the Fine Arts Academy which is a new program instituted in the 2010-11 school year. The space for the FAA was made possible with the facilities department moving out of Franklin High School and onto Hayward Street.

Question #2: Is there enough of an imbalance so that we need to redistrict some or all
of our students?

After reviewing the number of classrooms not in use in the traditional sense and considering the impact of the removal of modulars over the next few years, it has been determined that:

1. With the exception of the John F. Kennedy School, students currently being educated in the modulars can be moved back into space within their own buildings.

2. Additional room has to be made available at John F Kennedy School for dedicated
music room and OT/PT space.

3. Since the modulars at the Kennedy School are still functional, they should stay in place
for the next year or two while the Administrative team determines the best way to address
this imbalance.

4. Since there is considerable space at the ECDC and Oak Street School and because Kennedy students move on to Horace Mann Middle School, there may be opportunities to make minor shifts to the Kennedy population with minimal impact.

Question #3: Is the answer to this question dependent upon the School Committee’s decision on whether to adopt half-day kindergarten as opposed to the current full-day program currently offered?

At the January 11, 2011 School Committee Meeting, it was made clear that it was not cost effective to move to a half-day kindergarten model at this time. If at some point this decision is reconsidered, the number of kindergarten classrooms would be reduced. However, space would still need to be provided for optional half-day programs.


1. Keep all schools operational - The SNSC recommends keeping all schools open. With the removal of modular classrooms, the district will need to place 221 students into our existing schools/classrooms. Further if the finances improve, it would be the goal to revert to smaller class sizes and restore programs.

2. Modular Removal - After consultation with Town Administrator, Jeff Nutting, the funds for removal should be available from the Municipal budget, removing modulars one school per summer for the next several years. The SNSC recommends the following schedule for removal:

A. Gerald M. Parmenter School: Summer 2011- These modulars are in the poorest condition. Four of the six modulars are leased, costing the town money, and if some programs are moved, there is room within the actual building to accommodate the existing students

B. Jefferson School: Summer 2012 - These modulars are also in poor condition and there will be no impact on the student body.

C. John F. Kennedy School: Summer 2013 - There is no excess space within this building. By waiting a few years to remove these modulars, it gives the administration time to adequately plan and communicate where students should be relocated.

D. Davis Thayer School: Summer 2014 - The removal of the modulars should coincide with any renovations. In conjunction with this renovation, the smaller classrooms should be looked at with a possible plan to combine them. This would provide Davis Thayer School with larger classrooms more consistent with the other elementary schools in the district.

3. Minor redistricting – The SNSC recommends development of a mini-redistricting plan. This will involve moving some students/neighborhoods to reconcile numbers. This may be an opportunity to draw more stable lines in some areas of the district which now have students on one side of the street at a different school than their neighbors. Below are some possibilities:

A. Move John F. Kennedy students to Oak Street/ECDC/ Horace Mann complex where there is potential classroom space
B. Consider making some minor tweaks in some areas bordering the Keller-Oak districts and the Davis Thayer-Oak districts, which have been problematic over the years.


Clearly budget challenges over the past several years have impacted the way students have been educated. With a reduction in the teaching force, Franklin has seen class sizes increase and the need for classroom space decrease. At one point the eighteen modulars at the elementary schools were full and it was assumed that in order to accommodate all those students, the district would need to build a new elementary school or a permanent addition to one of the school. As noted in this report, currently not all the modulars are being used as fulltime classrooms and there is available classroom space at all the middle schools and within all but one of the elementary schools.

Due to the reduction of staff, many classrooms have been repurposed to offer small group instruction and many classrooms have been set aside for the Solutions program. This has provided some relief from crowded classrooms. In addition more classroom space is now being used for small group SPED instruction, SPED sub-separate programming and OT/PT services. Over the last few years new requirements have arisen necessitating dedicated space for specific programs. The DESE now requires a separate learning area for ELL (English Language Learners) students. ELL education can take place in a room shared with another specialist, but time has to be scheduled when no other instruction is taking place. Reader’s Workshop, part of the district’s Balanced Literacy initiative, also requires a dedicated book room and is an important component which supports this initiative. A book room is an instructional resource for teachers where teachers can borrow an individual book or sets of books that are leveled and organized for individual
student reading levels.

Although, this report indicates that potential space exists within the district, each building still needs room to house the special programming detailed above. With a plan to renovate FHS, remove modulars over the several years, and a review of district lines, specifically in the Kennedy area, the space needs of the district should be addressed for the next few years.

Thank you for the opportunity to work on this project. We look forward to full discussion/questions at our January 25, 2011 meeting.

Respectfully submitted,
Roberta Trahan, Chair SNSC
Cindy Douglas
Paula Mullen
Sally Winslow

Franklin, MA

No comments:

Post a Comment