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Clarksburg Preschool Proposal Has High Cost

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The School Committee reviewed the study for a preschool.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — One, two, three: the not-so-good news was counted at Thursday's School Committee meeting.

Superintendent Jonathan Lev reported that the school district had not made the cut in this year's eligibility round for a new school, that next year's budget is going to be tight and the proposed preschool's price was much higher than expected.

The town had been investigating the possibility of renovating a second-floor room back into a classroom at Town Hall, a former school. Town meeting approved a transfer of $8,000 from the school stabilization account last spring to fund the study.

"It probably came out a little bit higher than anticipated," said Lev. "The cost estimate is between $220,000 and $240,000."

Making the preschool handicapped accessible alone will cost $70,000 to $90,000 for both interior and exterior work. Town Hall was brought into compliance several years ago by moving some functions into the lowest level and making the back door the main entrance, eliminating the need to update the upper floors.

Lev figured the number of children who would use the preschool at about a dozen.

"I will advocate very strongly in the need to provide a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds in the town of Clarksburg and work very strongly to make this a reality," he said.

The Selectmen will review the report at its meeting next Wednesday at 6:30.

There are a couple possibilities. The town could vote to use the $125,000 currently in the school stabilization fund, which would require a 2/3 vote at town meeting, use some school choice money and borrow the balance, which would have an effect on the tax rate.

There is no room at the school, but another more suitable building could be found. School officials, however, could not think of one with potential. Or a modular facility could be looked into

Or, the town could explore the possibility of creating a joint program with Stamford, Vt., School, where a number of Clarksburg children are already enrolled in that preschool.

School Committee member Jeffrey Levanos suggested it may be worthwhile to discuss an even more formal union with Stamford, with perhaps lower grades in facility and upper grades in the other.

Whether that could work between schools in separate states is unknown but the committee thought it should be explored.

"To me, it's worth thinking about a merger of the two schools," Levanos said because of the lengthy process of applying to the state for a new or renovated building.

Lev said the school had not been invited into the eligibility phase by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, something he didn't find surprising.

Some 201 schools from 17 different districts had submitted letters of interest this round, he said. "We are welcome to submit the same statement with some updates."

The committee thought it important to stress the overcrowding in the kindergarten, which had not been apparent when MSBA representatives had visited last fall.

Principal Linda Reardon and Lev said the technological component should also be added because the school is deficient in its ability to access Internet resources.

"The expectation at the state with the new PARCC assessments is that it will all be online," said Reardon. "We don't have the infrastructure to do the online PARCC assessment."

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is expected to replace the current Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for evaluating student learning.

Clarksburg is piloting elements of PARCC in Grades 4 and 8. This year, the school is being allowed to do paper evaluations but that will change.

Lev said town officials had informed him there may be "slim pickings" for the school budget this year.

"This may be the year they're really pressing us to possibly make some cuts," he said.

The committee was also told a new custodian to replace retiring John Blair could be hired by next week. There were 20 applicants for the job and six selected for interviews. A posting for a part-time school nurse only attracted five applicants, but that position should be filled as well.

The committee entered into executive session to discuss "complaints or charges against brought against employees, staff members, or individuals.

Tags: MSBA,   preschool,   

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