Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Memorial School Accepted into MSBA Grant Program

In January 2016, the MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) recommended and approved the Manchester Memorial School for admission into the Eligibility Phase of the MSBA grant process.   Being accepted means the MERSD Memorial School has been identified as being one of the neediest schools in the state (close to being out of options to address the structural issues of the building) and a good candidate for the grant program.  The MSBA grant program provides technical assistance and financial support (a minimum of 30% reimbursement) for the planning and construction of a new/renovated school. 

 Acceptance into the program comes a critical time.  As determined by an independent review, over the next two years MERSD is facing over five million dollars in costly temporary fixes.  Participation in the MSBA program will allow MERSD to work with the MSBA team of experts to conduct a feasibility study to determine the most cost effective solution for providing a renovated/rebuilt facility.

The Feasibility Study is estimated to cost up to $650,000, of which 30% will be reimbursed by the MSBA. The feasibility study will be funded through reserves with contributions coming from three sources--MERSD, Essex, and Manchester. The cost to the towns is determined in accordance with the capital allocation formula outlined in the MERSD Regional Agreement.

The School Committee voted to move ahead with the Memorial School Feasibility Study on March 15th.   The next steps require affirmative votes to fund the towns' portions of the study at each of the upcoming town meetings:
  •  Manchester Town Meeting April 4th @ 7:00 pm - Memorial School
  •  Essex Town Meeting May, May 2nd @ 7:00pm - Essex Elementary School

Background Information:
In the spring of 2013, an elementary facilities assessment was conducted by Habeeb & Associates. The study was performed at the district’s request to verify and to provide additional information to an internal review conducted during the 2011-2012 school year.  The Habeeb study determined that each of our elementary school buildings has exceeded its useful life and require a plan of action to address the structural and programmatic needs of the district. The annual cost to maintain the Manchester Memorial, built in 1951, and Essex Elementary, constructed in 1958, was projected to increase significantly within five years. It was imperative that MERSD formulate a long-term plan to address our declining elementary school facilities in order to responsibly manage costs and to provide students with a safe and environmentally sound learning environment.

Recognizing that that this was important policy decision that had an impact on students, parents, and the community at large, the MERSD School Committee launched a task force/study committee to review the academic program and to gather public input on possible solutions for our future course of action.  The process concluded that “Based on the learning from our discovery, the task force recommends maintaining the neighborhood School model for the two elementary schools in MERSD. While there is some traction and interest in the unified elementary model, the collective consensus from a variety of community groups clearly points to the neighborhood model.” For more information about MERSD’s elementary facilities planning process and recommendations, please visit the Memorial Building Project  site.