The committee studying the potential consolidation of school buildings is scheduled to recommend one of the four options outlined in the “Best Educational Use of School Facilities” (BEUSF) report during a presentation to the school committee on Tuesday, June 21.
The “Ad Hoc Committee” will present its findings at the in-person meeting in the second-floor exhibition room at Hull High School. The 6:30 p.m. meeting will be televised.
“The school committee will take the Ad Hoc Committee’s report and recommendation under consideration and most likely come up with next steps and a timeline during the summer,” Superintendent of Schools Judith Kuehn told The Hull Times.
The final decision rests with the school committee, whose focus, as members have stated repeatedly throughout the process, is to do what’s in the best interests of the students.
The overall purpose of the report was to evaluate the educational adequacy of the three school buildings currently in use – Hull High School, Memorial Middle School, and Jacobs Elementary School – in view of declining enrollments and other factors.
Throughout the 2021-22 academic year, this BEUSF working group has engaged in “a very thoughtful, deliberative process of fact-finding and community outreach,” member Ernest Minelli told the Times in response to an email. “Our stated purpose is to provide the Hull School Committee with additional context, updated facts, and a representative cross-section of perspectives from various stakeholders here in Hull.”
The Ad Hoc Committee’s report simultaneously builds upon the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) 2020 study presentation, while also “diving even more deeply into specific considerations that have emerged during the course of our research,” Minelli said.
The MARS report outlines four possible plans for the district:
Option 1: Continue to use the current model — Jacobs Pre-K-5; Memorial Middle School 6-8; Hull High School 9-12;
Option 2: Pre-K-8 model — Jacobs Pre-K-8, A) Pre-K-8 as single school, B) Pre-K-5, 6-8 as a school-within-a-school; Memorial Middle School building no longer a functioning school; Hull High School 9-12;
Option 3: Pre-K-7 model — Jacobs Pre-K-7, A) Pre-K-7 as single school, B) Pre-K-4, 5-7 as a school-within-a-school; Memorial Middle School building no longer a functioning school; Hull High School 8-12; and
Option 4: Hybrid model — The School Department will select option 2 or option 3; Memorial Middle School will be mixed-use with the following conditions: house municipal offices, house special programs (South Shore Educational Collaborative and school-related programs), with the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding.
Guided by the leadership of Ad Hoc Committee Co-Chairs Kuehn and Town Manager Philip Lemnios, the seven-member subcommittee has hosted seven community focus groups, gathered information from a town-wide survey, and participated in a detailed walking tour of all three school buildings, according to Minelli.
As part of the upcoming meeting, an Ad Hoc Committee report will be presented that includes specific recommendations, as well as considerations, “for the School Committee to review, analyze, and deliberate as they continue to evaluate the best educational use of our school facilities,” Minelli said.
Former School Committee member Jennifer Fleming, who did not run for another term in the recent town election, and former Select Board member John Reilly, who was not re-elected, asked that they be allowed to continue to serve on the Ad Hoc Committee.
“It’s been an effective, very thorough process,” Fleming told the Times. “We’ve looked at all the possibilities, and we’ve heard from students, teachers, Hull residents, and others.”
She found Reilly’s historical perspective of the schools to be helpful, Town Manager Philip Lemnios’ input to be valuable, and the meetings to be respectful and collaborative.
“It’s not the schools versus town government,” Fleming said. “We can come up with great ideas working together. I got the sense that everyone on the Ad Hoc Committee does want what’s best for the students.”
Fleming has high regard for Kuehn and her involvement in the process.
“Judy works very hard and digs right in – she doesn’t go for the easy solution,” she said. “She has put great effort into this process in the midst of all the challenges associated with the pandemic and has set aside a lot of time to really listen to people’s [perspectives].”
Longtime Hull resident and HHS graduate Patrick Finn, who was one of the first students to attend Jacobs Elementary School and who was also a member of the School Building Committee that supported the earlier “expansive Jacobs project,” is in favor of the option that would consolidate the schools by repurposing the Memorial Middle School for other town uses.
“A thriving and active school district with pre-K to 7th grade at Jacobs would help Hull attract and retain good teachers,” Finn told the Times. “The Jacobs School is Hull’s biggest, best, and most expensive school facility – with a capacity of 785 students – but only educates approximately 400 Hull kids today. Hull kids deserve the best education in our best school.”
Finn said that the MARS report states that the HPS being well below capacity and declining enrollments “do not justify [continuing to operate three facilities].”
Hull resident Polly Rowe told the Times she believes that “consolidation is an exciting opportunity for Hull residents to prepare for the future by deciding now how best to adapt to the continued student enrollment decline projected for the next decade without impacting students’ educational experience. School consolidation will lead to improved student achievement levels, enhanced learning time, and better educational outcomes we all want for our children,” she said.
School Committee Vice Chair David Twombly also shared his thoughts.
“We have to do what’s in the best interests of our students, and not necessarily for the town or for what’s going to be the best financial decision,” he said. “Students only go through the middle school grades once, hopefully, and we have to do the right thing.”
Twombly urges everyone involved and the entire community to “keep an open mind.
“I see benefits to both continuing down the road with all three schools, but also some of the benefits of consolidation,” he said. “The school committee will flesh out all the different information and do what’s in the best interests of the students.”
Other members of the Ad Hoc Committee are former Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Facilities David DeGennaro and advisory board member Jason Frady. Renee Kiley is the parent-at-large with the committee, and Debbe Bennett is the recording secretary. DeGennaro agreed to remain on the subcommittee following his retirement.
Voters at the recent town meeting voted in favor of appropriating $100,000 to identify costs associated with any town building changes.
“If school building consolidation should eventually occur, funds will be needed to identify costs for engineering modifications,” according to the Advisory Board’s recommendation in the 2022 town meeting warrant. “These funds will provide for those projects.”
Should school building consolidation not occur, these funds would be used to pay for engineering and repair plans for other town buildings.
“We are looking forward to seeing all the hard work that the Ad Hoc Committee has done and will present to us at our meeting on June 21,” said school committee Chair Stephanie Peters. “The entire goal of this process has been to make sure we are delivering the best educational opportunities to the children of Hull, and we are grateful for their work. The school committee will consider what our next steps will be based on their recommendation. This process still has several steps to go through, including impacts on the building structures and financial impacts as well as safety, and we are looking forward to this process. The school committee is committed to doing what is best for the students of Hull.”
To read the full report, visit https://www.hullpublicschools.org/district/best-educational-use-school-facilities