Below we've debunked some of the most common myths about the current plan to build two 18/19 section elementary schools.
MYTH 1: BUILDING TWO 18/19 SECTION SCHOOLS IS FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE AND FAR MORE COSTLY THAN BUILDING THREE SMALLER SCHOOLS WITH FEWER CLASSROOMS
FACT: Building two larger schools is significantly less costly than building three smaller schools, and creates taxpayer value.
Despite claims that it is fiscally responsible to build three schools with fewer classrooms per school instead of two schools at three classrooms per grade, the opposite is true. Reducing the number of classrooms in these schools would not significantly reduce the overall square footage as each would still require a “core” that meets today’s building codes and educational standards, including common spaces such as art, gym, cafeteria and special education spaces. Building three smaller schools is estimated to cost at least $40 million dollars more and is completely unsupported by both the current enrollment and forecasted trends.
MYTH 2: THE NEW HUNNEWELL SCHOOL WILL COST $67-$70 MILLION AND WILL BE THE MOST EXPENSIVE SCHOOL PER SQUARE FOOT EVER BUILT IN THE COMMONWEALTH
FACT: The new Hunnewell School is estimated to cost $62 million and is on par with other peer projects entering the design phase.
The current estimated total cost for Hunnewell is $62 million, not $67-$70 million as inaccurately reported. These estimates include feasibility, design, construction and swing space costs, assuming construction starts in summer 2021. As construction costs continue to rise, it is inappropriate to compare forward-facing costs for new construction to the costs of previously completed schools. When compared with projects entering the design phase, Hunnewell estimates are in line with peer projects according to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) database.
MYTH 3: EDUCATORS HAVE NOT BEEN CONSULTED FOR INPUT ON THE RECOMMENDED PLAN TO STANDARDIZE ALL SCHOOLS WITH THREE SECTIONS PER GRADE
FACT: All 7 of Wellesley's elementary principals provided their overwhelming support for 3 sections per grade.
Every committee to date has worked in partnership with our elementary educators in order to ensure that recommendations are in the best interest of both our students and our teachers. All of Wellesley's elementary school principals provided feedback on what they believed to be the ideal number of sections per grade, and each principal spoke out in support of 3 sections for grade as being the minimum number of sections at which many things within an elementary school can function optimally. Our principals provided input that 3 sections per grade not only offers opportunities for our students to meet and work with a diverse group of students each year, but for our teachers to collaborate, and also to provide for options for when enrollment grows or declines.
MYTH 4: THREE SECTIONS PER GRADE IS TOO MANY AND CONTRIBUTES TO POOR OUTCOMES FOR STUDENTS
FACT: Three sections per grade has been the Wellesley standard for over 20 years
In the 1990s, when K-5 enrollment was on the rise, Wellesley town officials considered many different ways to address the need for additional classrooms. After much discussion and debate, the town firmly settled on three classrooms per grade as ideal for both the students and the town, allowing for expanded educational opportunities but retaining the "small, neighborhood school" feel that the residents valued.
The benefits of a 18/19 classroom schools are clear:
Greater opportunity for teacher collaboration
Flexibility for placing students and mixing them up from year to year
Greater stability when there are fluctuations in enrollment
Still a small school where the principal can know every child and his or her family
MYTH 5: THE PROPOSED NEW HUNNEWELL SCHOOL IS AN OVER-SIZED MEGA SCHOOL THAT IS NEARLY TWICE THE SIZE OF WHAT A RIGHT SIZE SCHOOL SHOULD BE
FACT: The new Hunnewell school reflects modern building requirements to provide appropriate services to all children.
Sprague School, Wellesley's largest elementary school at about 68,000 square feet, is the only K-5 school in town that has been entirely rebuilt since a landmark special education law in the 1970s required school districts to provide appropriate services to all children. Since then, the delivery of education has changed dramatically, and every new school across the Commonwealth is being built to reflect this. Elementary schools are bigger, in order to meet modern standards for providing public education for kids. They are bigger to meet modern building codes, and bigger to provide flexible buildings that provide long-term value to their communities.
MYTH 6: THERE IS NO REAL URGENCY TO PROCEED WITH THE PROPOSED PLAN TO BUILD TWO SCHOOLS. NOW IS THE TIME TO RE-INVESTIGATE BUILDING 3 SHOOLS.
FACT: A change in direction to a three school plan and resulting delays would likely put the town's MSBA funding in jeopardy
The Town has followed a very thoughtful, deliberate, and lengthy, multi-year process to get to the current point of design for Hunnwell and the study for Hardy/Upham. This two school plan was based upon the recommendations of the Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham Master Planning Committee. Changing the current plan from building two schools to three smaller schools will constitute a significant enough modification in the building and educational programs, that new master planning would be required. Given the Town's agreement with the MSBA, such a dramatic shift in direction and the resulting scheduling delays would likely put the MSBA funding in jeopardy.
MYTH 7: BUILDING TWO 18/19 SECTION SCHOOLS INSTEAD OF THREE SMALLER SCHOOLS WILL POSE SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT
FACT: Building two 18/19 section schools will have far less impact on the environment than building three smaller schools.
The three school scenario results in between approximately 33,780 and 40,785 additional square footage of building – which would produce between approximately 170 and 200 additional metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. For perspective, this volume equates to about 36-40 additional vehicles on the road per year, 20-23 new homes built per year or 220-260 acres of U.S. forest.