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Facilities Task Force expects 13 percent drop in enrollment


GROTON — The Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee has voted to end the existence of its Facilities Task Force III.

In its final report before the School Committee, FTF member David Johnson summarized the group’s findings. These include verification that student enrollment in the district was undergoing a precipitous decline, which indications show could go on “for the foreseeable future.”

Formed last year, the FTF’s major concerns were enrollment and demographics. Studies showed that student enrollment in the district was expected to plunge by 13 percent over the next five years, due mostly to a declining birth rate since 1991 and a stagnant housing market.

As part of its mandate, the task force also reviewed conditions in each of the district’s buildings. They found for the most part that all buildings were well-maintained, with only the type of renovations expected in such structures over time.

The single most important capital expenditure the task force was able to identify was that of underground oil storage tanks, most of which were approaching the end of their 20- to 25-year service life and would need to be replaced soon and brought up to the latest state codes.

In their process, the committee considered one of the task force’s recommendations — to form a new study panel to oversee the replacement of a number of underground oil storage tanks at school buildings throughout the district.

Timothy Sheehan, the district’s director of business and finance, confirmed the conclusion, adding that the district did not have insurance covering a possible leak in any of the tanks and doubted that any insurance company would cover them at this late date. Thus, there was a need to look into replacing the tanks soon.

In concluding his presentation, Johnson told the School Committee that it was his group’s recommendation that a new committee be established to study the oil tank question. Johnson added that in spite of declining enrollment, the district should not only consider putting in place a district-wide security system but continue to plan for the construction of a new elementary school, consider expanding the Swallow Union Elementary School, and perhaps put the Prescott Elementary School back “on line.”