HARVARD -- The announcement was simple and to the point: Dr. Linda Dwight had been selected as the new superintendent of Harvard Public Schools starting July 1, 2014.
That said, the School Committee Monday night looked at a five-year budget, a new statewide exam and discussed renovations and additions to the Bromfield House and science labs at Bromfield School.
George O'Neill, from Gorman, Richardson, Lewis Architects, gave a presentation on his and Scott Richardson's findings in their review of the Bromfield House administrative building and Bromfield School's science labs.
"The report on the Bromfield House included the findings of a structural and engineering assessment to determine the need for any maintenance/repair work on an aging municipal building. The report included work that would also need to be done to bring the building up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, which would be required if the cost of maintenance/repairs exceeded a cost of approximately $79,000," Chairman SusanMary Redinger later added.
O'Neill found that Bromfield House had issues regarding ADA accessibility, as offices are located on the second floor and ramps to some entrances are not ADA-compliant.
Solutions may call for installation of a lift into the house and to update ramps at all of the entrances. O'Neill also suggested creating a conference room and possibly office space on the first floor.
He also mentioned the need for wider doorways, an updated water runoff management system and new heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems, among other things.
O'Neill estimated the cost at $686,572 to bring the building up to code and renovate what needs to be renovated.
"This is a broader scope figure. We haven't drilled down to what your real needs may be," O'Neill said.
O'Neill also presented a report of his findings on Bromfield School science labs.
Five of the science labs were built in 1988 while three more were added in 2001. Since enrollment totals have changed since then, the labs are too small for the required square footage per student.
O'Neill looked at the Massachusetts Building Authority's guidelines for science labs and found that 60 square feet per student, or about 1,440 square feet per classroom at Bromfield School, are needed in these rooms. All of them are below that amount.
He also found that the ventilation, heating and cooling systems lab tables, and storage rooms are either deteriorating or in need of updating.
As these rooms host several different types of science instruction, O'Neill talked of making all of the labs have the same capabilities. Tables could be mobile so they can either be in the middle of the room or lined up against the perimeter of the walls where gas valves and sinks would be. In order to do this, the lab tables must be the same height as the perimeter in order to line them up correctly.
Other suggestions for the labs included new flooring, ceiling, utilities, lighting, sprinklers and piping for fixtures.
O'Neill estimated the cost at $3,474,300 with 60 to 65 percent in the HVAC systems and lab table countertops.
Science teacher Deb Pierce said, "One of the biggest problems we have right now is space. It would be nice if the rooms were a little more versatile."
Pierce said the chemical storage room is too small and the shelves go up too high for many to reach, which could be a safety issue.
"There are a lot of obstacles and we've been avoiding them but it would be nice if we could address them," Pierce said.
Interim Superintendent Joe Connelly said, "It seems that very little can be set aside (on this issue."
School Committee member Keith Cheveralls added, "The evidence is compelling and we owe the town a response to what we are going to do."
The School Committee looked at a working draft of their five-year capital plan from fiscal year 2015 through 2019.
The committee approved the draft. Members hope to spread out several costs over five years to ensure that no one year is hit too hard. The next step is to bring an updated draft to the Capital Planning and Investment Committee before it makes its way to spring Town Meeting
"We think it is very important for the town to have a description of what our five-year needs are," Connelly said.
Connelly presented a new exam that Massachusetts will participate in with 19 other states, in a field test to be administered to grades three to 11 in English Language Arts and Math in the next school year. The test is to assess readiness for college and careers .
He said the exam will field test the performance-based assessment during a March to April testing period and an end of the year assessment from May to June. All Massachusetts school districts will participate in this field-testing, accounting for 87,000 students.
In Harvard, two groups of students in grades 3, 5 and 7 will take the English Language Arts test of the exam and two sections from grade 8 will take the math portion. Students who participate in these sections of the exam will not be tested on the same sections in the MCAS exam.
New economics club
The School Committee approved a new economics club at Bromfield School, as presented by two Bromfield students interested in the topic.
Sam Swindells and Chris Hogan brought the idea to the School Committee in an effort to learn and teach other students about economics. They'd like to name it the Bromfield Society of Economics and Finance. Swindells and Hogan said they have nearly a dozen students, including themselves, interested in the club.
"I wish I did something like this in high school," Vice Chairman Kirsten Wright said.
The School Committee voted unanimously to approve the club.
Cheveralls gave his stamp of approval as well. "I really applaud this type of thing going on at the Bromfield School," he said.