WILMINGTON — Wilmington Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand delivered the last of three presentations on the town’s applications for the Massachusetts School Building Authority to the Board of Selectmen on Monday night. The purpose of the presentation was to gather insight from the board in terms of what proposed configuration options the MSBA should not consider as Wilmington gets further into the acceptance process.
In his presentation, Brand shared that the MSBA application process requires what they call a “senior study” to examine enrollment and program and facility issues. They’d focus this on the Wildwood School, as this is the priority application that was previously identified among the other five applications.
He proposed indicating to the MSBA, from talks with the School Committee and the Finance Committee the week before, for them not to study the following options: remaking the Wildwood School in its current configuration of pre-k and kindergarten; any option that doesn’t include pre-k; and maintaining the current number of elementary buildings in town. He’d tell them to study a pre-k through grade 3 option and a pre-k through 5 option for the north side of town.
Chairman Jonathan Eaton provided previous context including the findings of the Facilities Master Plan from 2018 and the benefits of using the MSBA to fund school projects. He said that the FMP identified the need to consolidate schools due to the high number of transitions in the current setup. It was the MSBA that directed the town to do the same with their original application for the Wildwood School.
He also shared that he would not be in favor of consolidating into a single elementary school in town, but he is interested in eliminating a few transitions before the middle school level.
Selectman Kevin Caira pointed out that the specific consolidation options named in the presentations to the School and Finance Committees were not presented that night, and that new slides were added which weren’t in their hard copies or shared with the previous committees.
He brought question to the superintendent’s suggestion that the community was being involved in this process, as the board was not given information that had been given to the other committees, and the community was not surveyed as implied by the previous presentations.
Greg Bendel advocated for a new Wildwood School due to its location, age, and the size of the property. However, he said it would be irresponsible to take on six building projects at once.
“Residents don’t want to take on multi-project debt at one time,” he added.
Gary DePalma also cautioned taking on a large expense in the current fiscal climate.
Jomarie O’Mahony agreed with the suggestion that one large pre-k through grade 5 school would not be a good idea, nor would recreating or trying to maintain the six elementary schools in their current configuration.
“We need to think through how the consolidation would work,” she said.
She added that it’s time for the town to take action and act upon its plans.
Caira shared that he would like to see a new elementary school, whether it’s located at the current Wildwood School location or another site. He asked why it was the desire of the FMP and the MSBA application to reduce transitions, citing survey results where 60.4 percent of educators supported transitions for students and only 26.1 percent did not.
Brand explained that students switching schools has an impact on learning and routine for the whole family.
Caira recommended that the OPM for the new town hall/school admin building and the new senior center be caught up on this process in case, for example, the new town hall would be built on a new site and the Wildwood students could be relocated at the current town hall while the new Wildwood is built.
Town Manager Jeff Hull said that he had talked with P3 consulting about the MSBA application already.
Caira’s other concerns were related to an $80,000 appropriation for a study for the Wildwood School, which Hull explained went to considering modular classrooms or renovations, and what consolidation options would be presented to the MSBA, as in the Finance Committee meeting Brand had said that he wasn’t presenting any of the options that he had shown them to the MSBA.
This led Brand to reiterate the MSBA’s request: that they share what options the town doesn’t want them to look at.
“They want to focus their time, resources, and that of the community, because they want these projects to succeed,” he continued.
He assured Caira that the community would have opportunity to share their opinions with the MSBA in the near future. The selectman asked if any new options could emerge later on, and Brand did say it would be possible.
Caira also wanted to clarify whether the superintendent was saying that there was no desire to create a new elementary school in place of the Wildwood, because his own opinion was to do the opposite. He later expanded what he meant in saying that it could include pre-k through grade three or whatever consolidation is preferred.
Brand answered that he would bring the feedback to the MSBA indicating the receptivity of consolidation of grade levels with pre-k included at the Wildwood School.
Hull asked a question to the board at the end of the discussion as to whether they’d be interested in replacing the Wildwood in its current configuration without changing grade levels.
Eaton shared that he’d oppose the current configuration and be in favor of consolidation. Bendel said he’s open to all configurations with the idea of it including the Wildwood, with which the rest of the board agreed.
By request, the superintendent said he would make the presentation he gave that night available to the board and to the public after the meeting.