A public information campaign is being planned to share with school staff members, parents, and others in the community the findings of a study on how best to use the town’s school facilities. In light of recent data showing a decline in public school enrollment, consolidation of the buildings is one option, as is a possible municipal use.
School staff will learn more about the 50-page study, conducted by members of the Massachusetts Associations of Regional Schools Consulting Group (MARS), during a virtual presentation on Professional Development Day at the end of the school year, according to School Superintendent Judith Kuehn. Another meeting will be scheduled for parents and others soon, with details on both meetings expected at a later date.
“This will really be an opportunity to introduce the results of the study to these different groups,” Kuehn said.
A summary of the results of the study was recently presented to the Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Board, and it outlined four options based on the declining enrollments, public concern about excess space, and other considerations. The School Committee also participated in these remote meetings.
During this week’s School Committee meeting, the upcoming meetings for staff members and the public and the next steps in the process were discussed. “We need to unpack what’s in the report,” said Kuehn, who noted that she had expected to see more residents in on the call due to widespread community interest in the study.
While stopping short of making any specific recommendation, the MARS team did indicate a preference for Option 4, which is a mixed-use model.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Option 1, maintaining the status quo by continuing to operate and maintain three separate school facilities.
Option 4 incorporates either Option 2 or 3, with Memorial Middle School operating as a mixed-use facility and the South Shore Collaborative space remaining.
Option 2 considers creating a PreK-eighth grade and a grade nine through12 model, with PreK-8 at the Jacobs School, grades nine-12 at Hull High School, and the middle school no longer utilized as a school. The current space allotted to the South Shore Educational Collaborative could be reduced or eliminated.
Option 3 considers creating a PreK-seventh grade and a grade eight through 12 model, with PreK through seventh-grade students located at Jacobs, grades eight through 12 at the high school, the middle school no longer used as a school, and the Collaborative’s spaces reduced or eliminated.
The cost of implementing the various options is expected to be made available at a later date.
There is a plan to create a “liaison” group comprised of Kuehn, Town Manager Philip Lemnios, a member of the School Committee and the Board of Selectman, all acting as liaisons to discuss various aspects of the report and to set a timeline for a potential decision once the study has been fully vetted in the community.
An ad hoc committee would also be formed to study the different options and then make a recommendation to the School Committee, which would make the final decision.
The liaison group would help decide the membership of the ad hoc committee, which would include Kuehn, Assistant Superintendent David DeGennaro, Lemnios, a member each from the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee, and possibly a teacher and a parent from each school building, among others. A student might also be asked to serve on the committee.
School Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Fleming, member Ernest Minelli, and Kuehn would represent the schools on the ad hoc committee, and Minelli would also serve on the liaison group.
MARS will continue to work with school officials as the process unfolds.
“We have a great working relationship with MARS,” Kuehn said. “This is a long journey we will all make together.”
While recognizing that some citizens might prefer to see the process move at a faster pace, Fleming said it will take time to consider all the factors and the recommended options and to ensure that the ultimate decision is in the best interests of HPS students.