As the Winthrop Public School Department (WPS) and School Building Assistance Committee (SBAC) prepares to reconfigure schools next year to begin the construction of a new Middle/High School facility, the School Department has yet to secure four modular classrooms for the Cummings School. This development has caused some concern by Winthrop School Committee member Bill Holden.
The Cummings School is set to accommodate grades 4, 5, 6, and 7 next year. Under the original plan, WPS planned to acquire four modular classrooms to accommodate the extra grade at that school.
Superintend of Schools John Macero said WPS put out a bid for four modular classrooms but no bids came back so the School Department went to Plan B.
At the last School Committee meeting, Holden worried that the lack of modular classrooms could lead to the loss of programs at schools and cramped space for students.
“Four years ago we were told there would only be one classroom available at each school,” said Holden. “This is of a great concern because without the modular classrooms I fear the impact overcrowding will have on the quality education.”
Holden said that over the course of the two-year transition, he’d be more comfortable with options.
“It seems now we are scrambling for space,” said Holden. “What happens when September rolls around and if things are not going well there will be no options.”
Macero tried to ease Holden’s worries.
“There has been this concern for quite a while,” said Macero. “We feel strongly there is enough room at the middle school to accommodate grades 8-12 and the SBAC felt we did not need modular classrooms at the Middle School.”
Macero said over at the Cummings School. were the plan all along was to add four modular classrooms, things have changed slightly. While WPS will still explore ways to acquire modular classrooms (the School Department is looking at a few in Hingham), Macero said he began exploring options to keep students at the Cummings under one roof.
“What we’ve done is take some specialty teachers who would normally have their own classrooms and decided to bring those specialty teachers into the classroom instead,” said Macero. “We have also established a spot for music and art and by bringing specialty teachers for subjects like science and language into the classrooms we were able to free up four classrooms in the school.”
Macero said the 6th grade would occupy those freed up classroom spaces.
“Over at the middle school we have added classrooms in cafeteria and isolated a space were the 8th grade will be,” said Macero. “Is it going to be a tight squeeze, yes but the outcome at the end is a brand new middle/high school facility.”
There was also some talk of delaying the school building project one year, an idea supported by Holden.
“Delaying the project would be too costly,” said Macero. “My responsibility is to make sure kids are educated in safe environment and to keep the school building project at the cost the tax payers voted for.”
Beginning September 2014, the Middle School will become the High School during construction. This school will include grades 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.
Macero said that the 8th grade class will be on a high school schedule but will have its own wing and not be mixed with upper classman.
The Cummings School will then accommodate grades 4, 5, 6, and 7.
The Fort Banks School will then add a 3rd grade classroom making the reconfiguration possible.