BURLINGTON - The parameters laid out by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to include Burlington in its reimbursement grant program are a lot different than what they were 10 years ago.

Burlington school officials went before the MSBA during its most recent meeting two weeks ago to discuss the next steps and expectations for the Fox Hill Elementary School project’s eligibility for the state’s grant reimbursement program.

The Fox Hill Elementary School was opened in 1960 and has served Burlington well for many generations. The building itself, however, has become the limiting factor in student learning and does not reflect the talent of the educators working within its classrooms. For much of the past year-plus, Burlington school officials have worked with the MSBA throughout the extensive process of getting the state’s formal approval and financial support for a project that would erect a new elementary school on the current Fox Hill Elementary School site. The existing Fox Hill building is expected to be demolished.

School Committee Chair Thomas Murphy, who was present during the MSBA meeting with School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti, disclosed the MSBA’s guidelines include setting preferred classroom sizes at 23 students per class at the elementary school level, which is at least 2-3 students higher than the practice and expectations of Burlington Public Schools.

“[The MSBA] enrollment projections show a fairly decent decrease in the next 10 years,” detailed a surprised Murphy. “Because they forecast a significant decrease in our student population, in addition to their expectation of 23 students to a classroom, they say we have too many schools in our town right now.”

Murphy confirmed the MSBA would participate with Burlington in building one new elementary school comprised of 480 students, effectively replacing the Fox Hill and Pine Glen Elementary Schools, leaving the town with three total elementary schools.

“This would result in significant redistricting town-wide,” assured Murphy, noting elementary school students would be reallocated into Memorial Elementary School, Francis Wyman Elementary School, and the new elementary school.

Dr. Conti outlined the MSBA’s projection model for elementary school enrollment “seven or eight years from now.”

- Francis Wyman Elementary School: 635 students (518 students now)

- Memorial Elementary School: 480 students (420 students now)

- New elementary school with Pine Glen and Fox Hill closed: 480 students

Looking further into the MSBA guidelines, they say 78 elementary classrooms are needed for “core classes,” while Burlington currently has 97 classrooms.

It’s evident that the new MSBA model may not be what Burlington school officials are seeking.

“There is nothing wrong with the MSBA model,” stated Dr. Conti. “But, it might not be a good match for this community.”

This past July, the School Committee unanimously voted to support the 4-building elementary school model that has been in place for many years.

“This board already voted unanimously to maintain four elementary schools,” reminded School Committee member Christine Monaco. “Closing Pine Glen and smushing students into three schools, I do not think is right for Burlington.”

Dr. Conti acknowledged he and Murphy tried to negotiate new terms, such as the district paying to have more than 78 classrooms or letting the MSBA reimburse less money for the project, but the MSBA denied such proposals.

Fortunately, the School Department has two warrant articles on the agenda for Town Meeting on Jan. 24. One, proposes moving forward with the Fox Hill project without the MSBA grant program and the other with the program.

The plan at this point is to go to Town Meeting with both options after discussing the logistics of moving forward without the MSBA’s financial assistance with the town’s financial team, Ways & Means and the Building Committee. A new elementary schools is expected to cost around $40 million.

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