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Update provided on Dale School Project

Superintendent Jeffrey Marsden and School Building Committee Chair Mike Quinlan have provided on the Feasibility Study process of the Dale Street School Building Project.

The District submitted its Preliminary Design Program (PDP) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on March 27. Approval of the PDP by the MSBA marks the completion of the first phase of the Project's Feasibility Study. The second phase is the Preferred Schematic Report (PSR) where the most viable alternatives are further developed and evaluated before selecting a preferred option for the project. Preliminary pricing is also developed during this phase.

Upon approval of the PSR phase, the Project Team will develop the Schematic Design based on the selected preferred option and will establish the scope, budget and schedule for the building project.

The PDP documents the development of the District’s Educational Program for the proposed new Dale Street School and includes an initial Summary of Spaces that is required to support the Educational Program within a school building. The existing conditions of the current Dale Street School are documented and potential building sites are explored. Options for building layouts on the final two sites are presented for consideration in the PSR phase when the preferred site is selected.

Educational Plan and Initial Space Summary. Educational Plans and Space Summaries were developed and presented for two grade configurations for the proposed school, grades 3-5 and grades 4-5. The Dale Street School is currently grades 4-5. These configurations were evaluated considering their impact on class size, scheduling and planning, transportation and security needs, as well as programs such as technology instruction, music and performing arts and special education, among other considerations.

The benefits of the grade 3-5 configuration include allowing students and families to be a part of a school community for three years instead of two years and better alignment of curriculum, planning, activities and student placement between three grades rather than two. In addition, a grade 3-5 configuration would allow for the space needed to support the projected growth in Medfield's student population and allow expansion of the preschool and kindergarten programs in the Memorial School.

Because the current Dale Street School is grades 4-5, a grade 3-5 configuration would require additional square footage in the proposed building, thereby increasing the project cost. A 3-5 configuration would also impact the grade configuration at all elementary schools in the District whereas keeping a 4-5 configuration would have minimal impact on the other elementary schools in the district. But, a 3-5 configuration would allow greater flexibility within each of the elementary schools to better accommodate future educational programs and student enrollment.

Preliminary Cost Information. For whichever grade configuration is chosen, MSBA provides a flat reimbursement rate of 39.84% for eligible project costs. Ineligible project costs include costs like permit fees, site costs over 8% of building costs, construction costs over $333 per square foot, furniture and fixtures, technology costs exceeding $2,400 per student and "soft costs" that are over 20% of construction costs. This means the cost to the community is approximately 60-70% of the total project costs.

Evaluation of Potential Sites. The District evaluated possible sites for the location of a potential new school building. A total of 199 parcels of town-owned land were found to be available. After eliminating all sites less than 10 acres, approximately 50 sites remained and after further eliminating sites that had wetlands, other environmental concerns or were conservation land, the list was narrowed down to six potential sites.

Due to a number of identified challenges, the School Building Committee voted to eliminate the following four sites: Hospital Hill/Sledding Hill, McCarthy Park, Red Gate Farm and the State Hospital Campus.

The Dale Street and Wheelock School sites met the necessary size criteria and were not found to have any preliminary legal or community use issues. These sites were further evaluated regarding their availability for development and any development restrictions.

Using the evaluations of the current Dale and Wheelock sites and the current state of the Dale Street School facilities, the district will determine whether to pursue additions/renovations to the existing school or whether to pursue a new school building on either of the two final sites.

Evaluation of Options. The two sites and two grade level configurations resulted in 16 preliminary site layout design options. The approach taken was to develop site layouts for the grade 3-5 configuration and the grade 4-5 configuration for each site. Each option will be further evaluated in terms of its preliminary costs, overall advantages and disadvantages and impact on other schools in the District.

A base repair option for the current Dale Street School is included as an option for further consideration, though it is not considered by the District and School Building Committee to be a feasible long-term solution as it does not accommodate the educational program needs.

Both grade level configurations and sites will be further studied and evaluated in the next phase of the Project and a decision on grade configuration and site selection will be made during the Preferred Schematic Report process.

The full PDP can be found here.

Next Steps. The District is currently working on the Preferred Schematic Report. The primary objective of this phase is ultimately to select a preferred option for the building and site. This will require the selection of a preferred site, a preferred grade configuration and a decision on the construction of a new school or additions/renovations to the existing Dale Street School. These decisions will be based on the selection criteria developed and evaluated including possible benefits regarding learning and the transition between grade levels, as well as an assortment of reports, including environmental reports, traffic studies and cost estimates. The intent is to select the most educationally beneficial yet cost-effective solution for the town.

The PSR is expected to be submitted to the MSBA on Sept. 9. Following approval of the PSR, the preferred option will be further developed in the Schematic Design phase which will establish the final Project Scope and Budget.

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