MERSD School Committee Appoints Memorial School Building Committee!
The MERSD School Committee recently appointed a team of Manchester and Essex residents to serve as the Memorial School Building Committee (MSBC). The MSBC will carry out all phases of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) building process, including feasibility, design, and construction, complying with proscribed MSBA procedures and policies and maximizing the District’s reimbursement application for renovations, additions, and/or construction of a new school. Through this process, the MSBC will work to find fiscally responsible, forward-thinking solutions for the Manchester elementary school building that meet the needs of the District’s current and future curriculum, is mindful of future maintenance and the impact on the environment, serve the school community, and is supported by voters in Manchester and Essex, as well as the MSBA.
The MSBA requires the school building committee to be made up of town representatives with backgrounds from construction, architecture, landscape, and education, as well as the district superintendent of schools, a school committee member, the school principal, district schools' facility management director, at least one teacher from the school, a member of the finance committee or local budget official, and a representative from an office authorized by law to construct school buildings. Manchester and Essex residents will serve on the committee.
Memorial School Building Committee
MERSD SC Representatives
MERSD District Representatives
Town Board Representatives
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 at 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.
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 this was an 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 review the Elementary Facilities Task Force Report and the Elementary Facilities Community Survey.
Memorial School Feasibility Study FAQs:
Why is the town thinking of taking on a school building project right now?
The Memorial School building is in critical need of attention. In December of 2015, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) identified the Memorial school as 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.
What is a feasibility study?
The Memorial School feasibility study is the MSBA’s first step. A feasibility study helps our communities determine the most cost effective and educationally appropriate long-term solution to address the failing building. It is a requirement of the MSBA that qualifies us for state-funded reimbursement for any future building project.
Who conducts the feasibility study?
The feasibility study is completed by a designated architect under the management of an Owner's Project Manager (OPM) hired by and in collaboration with the School Building Committee (SBC).
Who makes up the School Building Committee?
The SBC is required by the MSBA to be made up of town representatives with backgrounds in construction, architecture, landscape and education, as well as the town administrator, the district superintendent of schools, a school committee member, the school principal, district schools' facility management director, at least one teacher from the school, a member of the finance committee or local budget official, and a representative from an office authorized by law to construct school buildings. Manchester and Essex residents will serve on the committee.
What is included in a feasibility study?
The study includes but is not limited to an in-depth analysis of the current electrical, mechanical, structural, safety, code compliance, building envelope, energy management, enrollment and educational programming/curriculum needs of the school, as well as the conceptual and schematic designs and drawings for the solution determined to be most feasible.
How long will the feasibility study take?
The in-depth analysis of the current condition of the school, as outlined in response to the above question, will take approximately 6-9 months. Upon completion of the first phase, the SBC, OPM and Designer Architect will work with the MSBA on determining the long-term solution for the school. The second phase of the study will include the conceptual and schematic designs and drawings for the solution selected and will take an additional 6 to 12 months. The total length of time for the study is 12-24 months.
How much will the feasibility study cost?
The feasibility study is estimated to cost up to $650,000. The MSBA will reimburse the town 30% of the cost of the study. The feasibility study will be funded through reserves, with contributions from 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 MERSD has proposed the following funding formula to cover the costs of the feasibility study.
How did the town approve funding the feasibility study?
This was a three-step process. The first step was an affirmative vote for the Memorial School Feasibility Study warrant article by the MERSD School Committee. The second and third steps required and received affirmative votes at both the Essex and Manchester town meetings.
Why do we need to do something about the building when the staff is providing a great education for children there already?
The teachers and staff at the Memorial School have done an amazing job educating our students despite the conditions of the building. While we recognize that the most important elements in carrying out our educational mission are the people inside the building, the physical environment cannot be overlooked. The roof and major mechanicals are beyond their useful life and are showing signs of failure.
The District has found that delaying a long-term solution puts the District and the towns in an untenable situation where we risk not only forgoing state money to offset any project costs, but risk incurring expenditures of more than five million dollars in temporary solutions. We want to avoid a costly and short-term repair for a long-term solution that has the approval from MSBA, as well as their reimbursement.
Why don't we just repair the Memorial School?
Repairing the school will certainly be considered as part of the feasibility study.
What about the Essex Elementary School?
A Statement of Interest was submitted to the MSBA for both Essex Elementary and Manchester Memorial. The Memorial School was determined by the MSBA to be the building requiring immediate action. This affirms the assessment we received from our 2013 facilities assessment (the Hebeeb Report) and through the District’s experience with maintenance and repair costs. Both towns acknowledge that the Essex Elementary facility needs will require action and are working toward a proactive plan to address those needs in the coming years.
Who makes the final decisions regarding a solution for the Memorial School?
Ultimately, Town Meetings and the voters in Manchester and Essex make a final decision about the scope of a project, including costs and which option to pursue. Throughout the Feasibility Study period, the School Committee and the School Building Committee will keep the communities apprised of the plan, as well as provide opportunities for public participation and input. We recognize that it is critical to gain public participation and input and secure voter support for any school building project to be successful.