Dear Westwood Families:
Last year, the Town of Westwood took important steps forward on the journey to modernize our elementary schools and enhance student learning. We were accepted into the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) program, which provides financing and guidance for cities and towns that need to build new schools. We successfully completed the Eligibility Phase and formed a School Building Committee to oversee the process. With the majority of Westwood residents voting to approve funding at Town Meeting last May, we have now officially been accepted into the Feasibility Phase. As we move ahead, it is our commitment to keep lines of communication open, report developments that are of importance to the community, and seek community input.
The next step in the process is to hire a project manager and a designer to work with the School Building Committee. These individuals will play critical roles by working with MSBA to determine what options are possible, taking into account what the community needs and MSBA requires. We are currently drafting a Request for Service for the project manager position with the goal of having that individual hired in time to attend the MSBA board meeting on June 3 or on July 15, 2019. Once that step is complete, we will go through a similar process to hire a designer.
MSBA has very specific rules regarding the projects for which it will reimburse cities and towns. Westwood was invited into the MSBA based primarily on the condition of our oldest elementary school, the Hanlon School, which was built in 1951. As a result, any new project receiving MSBA funding must include Hanlon. During last fall, Westwood and the MSBA prepared enrollment projections to address what we believe our needs will be. The projections indicate renewed growth in our elementary school student population over the next 10 years. Enrollment ultimately determines how much square footage, how many classrooms and how many other rooms a new school will have.
For the Feasibility Phase of the project, the town presented MSBA three school building options – each of which would present a number of possibilities:
- Rebuild Hanlon School for a capacity of 315 students.
- Build a combined Hanlon/Deerfield School for a capacity of 560 students.
- Build a combined Hanlon/Sheehan School for a capacity of 685 students.
Once in place, the project manager and designer will study the options and estimate the costs associated with each so we have a clear picture of our choices when we hold community forums in the fall.
What this all means is that by the fall, we will be ready to begin our community engagement phase. Westwood is lucky to have the opportunity to use state dollars to defray the cost of this project. But, whatever plan is ultimately approved, it will be with the input of the community and will leave us well positioned to continue providing the highest quality education.
We look forward to seeing this exciting opportunity unfold and will provide updates leading up to the community forums.
Thank you for your interest and participation in this process.
Emily J. Parks
Superintendent of Schools
School Committee Chair
Dear Westwood Families:
At last spring’s town meeting, Westwood residents supported the School Department’s efforts to address our capital needs by appropriating funds for a school building project Feasibility Study. We want to update you on our progress and draw your attention to next steps.
As you know, Westwood is on track to receive significant funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to help us address the needs of some of our older facilities and offer our students a state-of-the-art educational experience. Communities that are invited into the MSBA process are eligible to receive partial reimbursement for school building projects within certain parameters.
We are currently in the first phase of a multi-step process and are on schedule to request advancement to the next phase of the process – the Feasibility Study – in February, 2019. The Feasibility Study is where potential projects are evaluated and a detailed plan for the size, scope and cost of our project is formalized.
Over the last several months, the District has provided the MSBA with required information and data to assess our community’s needs and determine what falls within the MSBA’s budget. In November, representatives from the School Department and from Town Hall had an initial meeting with representatives from MSBA to hear the MSBA’s analysis of that information and to understand further the parameters around the MSBA’s reimbursement.
As a result of that meeting, we are currently comparing the MSBA’s enrollment projections with information we have from enrollment studies commissioned by the School Department. Though the overall District enrollment has remained fairly stable over the last 10 years, our community is once again growing, a fact that will need to be considered as we move forward.
We should make clear that it is unlikely that any one building project can address all of our facility needs. However, we want to ensure that the options examined during the Feasibility Study result in a solution that addresses as many current needs as possible, maximizes the financial assistance we receive from the state, and leaves us well positioned for the future.
Once we move into the Feasibility Study, we will be holding community forums to gather input and identify the criteria that is important to any future school building. When we understand the community’s vision, we can use that vision to develop the most cost effective and educationally appropriate recommendations with the MSBA. The timeline we are currently following will give us completed school building designs is 2020, allows us to begin construction in 2021, and provides us with a completed project in 2023.
Westwood is entering an exciting phase in our future planning and we look forward to engaging with the community to continue providing the highest quality education. We encourage you to stay informed of our progress. We will provide updates on our work with the MSBA at our monthly School Committee meetings. In addition, on the District website (www.westwood.k12.ma.us) you will find a page dedicated to updating the community throughout this process: from the district home page, click the “Elementary Building Project” link under the “District” menu.
We are excited to move forward with this project and we thank you for your continued interest and participation.
Emily J. Parks
Superintendent of Schools
Westwood School Committee Chair
June 8, 2018
At the recent Town Meeting, Westwood residents sent a loud message to the School Department: “We support the plan to modernize our schools.”
By voting to approve money for a feasibility study with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), Westwood residents demonstrated their commitment to public education. For that, we say thank you.
Throughout this process, we have worked to engage with the community and make our residents and families part of the conversation about how we can best transform three of our oldest elementary school buildings. Now that you have made your voices heard, we will continue to keep the lines of communication open and active.
Over the next few months, we will gather and submit the paperwork required by the MSBA before the feasibility study can begin. Once school resumes in the fall, we will update you on our progress and continue to ask for your input and support.
Thank you again for supporting our schools and being part of the process. We are excited to move forward!
Emily J. Parks, Superintendent of Schools
Charles Donahue, Chair, Westwood School Committee
Common Questions from the Community
Q: If funded, what would happen during the feasibility study?
A: The project, “or preferred option,” as the Massachusetts School Building Authority terms it, will be determined during the 30-month feasibility study after identifying with the State, community members, as well at the school department and Town, what the needs are and how the community wishes to address them through this project. There will be many opportunities for the community to have input into this project throughout the feasibility study. The borrowing article that is before the Town provides funding for all costs up to the actual construction. The borrowing article authorizes the Town to borrow up to$1,750,000. This is an
estimated cost that may in fact come in lower than anticipated.
Q: What if funding for the feasibility study is not approved at the May 30 Town Meeting?
A: If the feasibility study is not approved, State reimbursement will be forfeited for the current funding cycle. The need to modernize our schools, however, does not go away. Everything from replacing roofs, addressing failing equipment, and ADA compliance would need to be funded entirely by the town.
Q: Is this project just about the Hanlon School?
A: No. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) permits only one school to be listed as part of the application. The Hanlon School was chosen as it is currently our building in greatest need. The MSBA does, however, allow more than one school’s needs be addressed as part of the feasibility study.
Q: Is the ultimate plan to consolidate the three elementary schools into one new mega-school?
A: No. No decision has been made. As part of the feasibility study, the School Committee will be soliciting input from the community about the future of our elementary schools. Together, a determination will be made that is best for the students and families of Westwood.
Q: What can residents do to be part of the process?
A: Please come to Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 30 in the High School gymnasium to vote for funding the feasibility study. A 2/3 “yes” vote is required to pass the warrant article.
Building Tour Photos
MORE COMMUNITY FORUMS ADDRESS WESTWOOD SCHOOLS BUILDING PROJECT AHEAD OF MAY 30 TOWN MEETING VOTE
(April 6, 2018) Inclement weather necessitated the postponement of the Westwood Public Schools second community forum on the potential building project involving the Sheehan, Deerfield, and Hanlon Elementary Schools. Now, two additional forums will be held on Thursday, April 12 – one at 9am at the Senior Center (60 Nahatan St.) and one at 7pm in the Sheehan School Cafeteria as part of the monthly School Committee meeting.
All town residents are welcome to attend and hear more about this important project. Superintendent Emily Parks and Westwood School Committee members will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the District’s acceptance into the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) program. In order for the District to receive MSBA funding for the building project, it must first take part in a feasibility study, which has to be approved at the next Town Meeting.
“We have been highlighting some of the issues at the three elementary schools, which were all built before 1954. Up to this point, we haven’t made any decisions about how we will proceed, other than to recommend we participate in the feasibility study,” said Parks. “We urge as many people as possible to come to the Town Meeting on May 30th and be part of the decision-making process.”
In addition to visiting the community forums and holding previous open-house tours of the elementary schools, Parks is making the rounds at PTO meetings. All of these efforts combined are intended to fully engage residents in the process and achieve transparency. Residents who cannot attend the upcoming forums are encouraged to watch a Westwood Media Center video of the first one held on March 20.
“It’s important for the community to understand the proposed feasibility study goes beyond the facilities’ assessment we conducted in 2015 as part of our Master Plan Capital Needs Study,” Parks said. “That study laid the groundwork for the feasibility study so we don’t have to repeat anything that was already assessed.”
Parks also noted that while the warrant to approve the feasibility study defines the cost as $1.75 million, it almost certainly won’t cost that much because of the findings of the 2015 report. Any costs incurred by the town will be paid as part of its debt service – taxes will not be raised to fund it. And, if it goes forward, a portion of the cost of the study will be reimbursement by MSBA.
Parks said the District remains determined to make fiscally responsible decisions to transform the Sheehan, Deerfield, and Hanlon Elementary Schools into modern places of learning.
For more information on the school building project, visit www.westwoodschoolbuilding.com.
COMMUNITY FORUMS INVITE QUESTIONS ABOUT
WESTWOOD SCHOOLS BUILDING PROJECT
UPDATED March 26, 2018: The Westwood Public Schools will be hosting additional community forums about the school building project on Thursday, April 12 at 9am at the Senior Center and at 7pm in the Sheehan School Cafeteria as part of the monthly School Committee meeting. All town residents are invited to attend and learn more about this extensive and important project. Superintendent Emily Parks and Westwood School Committee members will field questions from attendees.
(March 21, 2018) The Community Forum scheduled for Thursday, March 22 has been postponed and will be rescheduled.
On Tuesday, March 20 at 7pm in the Hanlon School Gym and Thursday, March 22 at 9am in the Sheehan School Library, the Westwood Public Schools will host its first community forums about the school buildings project. All town residents are invited to attend and learn more about this extensive and important project. Superintendent of Schools Emily Parks and Westwood School Committee members will field questions from attendees. The District has invited Westwood Media Center (formerly WestCAT) to film the forums for later broadcast.
The forums will come on the heels of open-house style tours of the Sheehan, Deerfield and Hanlon Schools. As previously announced, the District is hosting those tours on Saturday, March 3, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon and Sunday, March 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. to visibly demonstrate the condition of the schools and the related impact on educational programs and facility management. Both the tours and the community forums are part of the District’s commitment to continually engaging the community in the building project.
Although well-maintained, the Sheehan, Deerfield and Hanlon Schools date back to the late 1940s and early 1950s, and need to be modernized. The buildings are not fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They lack sufficient and suitable space for programs like art and music; small group instruction and intervention services. Much of the existing plumbing and HVAC systems is original and nearing the end of useful life. The District is determined to make fiscally responsible decisions to transform the schools into modern places of learning—capable of utilizing new technology and adapting to new curricula in order to continue providing the highest quality education.
For more information on the forums and tours, or the overall project, visit www.westwoodschoolbuilding.com.
Westwood Public Schools to Host Community Tours of Buildings Slated for Renovations
On Saturday, March 3, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon and Sunday, March 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., the Westwood Schools will host tours of the Deerfield, Hanlon and Sheehan elementary schools. As reported in a January 24 letter from Superintendent of Schools Emily Parks to all town residents, these three buildings are in need of modernization. The tours are among the first of many steps to engage the community in the building project. The District wants to visibly demonstrate the condition of the schools and the related impact it has on educational programs and practical matters of facility management.
“We want to give residents the opportunity to see for themselves the state of these buildings, and we want to make that as easy and convenient as possible,” said Parks.
An open house format will allow residents to drop in and tour one, two or all three of the school buildings involved. Tours will run every 20 minutes, led by educational and operations personnel. Each tour will address the general building background as well as equipment, systems, and accessibility concerns. Handouts will recap that information.
For those residents who cannot attend, the School District has invited Westwood Media Center, (formerly WestCAT) to film a tour of each building for later broadcast. Also, the tour handouts will be available on the project website (www.westwoodschoolbuilding.com). Updates about the tours will be posted on that website and promoted through the Westwood Schools social media channels.
January 2018 Letter to Residents
Dear Westwood Residents:
We are writing to invite you into an important community conversation. As you know, our School District is widely recognized as among the best in Massachusetts, and we aim to maintain that standing to best serve generations of our children to come. This reputation in large part reflects the investment that Westwood has made in its schools and the importance it places on educating our children. We are proud to continue this work.
Continuing that investment, we need to turn our attention to three of our elementary school buildings built between 1948 and 1953. Given their age, these buildings have needs that must be addressed. Although well-maintained, much of the existing plumbing and HVAC piping and components are original and nearing the end of useful life. The buildings are not fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They lack sufficient and suitable space for programs like art and music; small group instruction and intervention services; and even general storage and custodial functions. In short, they need to be modernized, both as a practical matter and to support today’s educational programs.
To be clear, we are not in dire straits. Our schools are safe, and students are learning. However, complications from deteriorating building conditions will escalate, as will the related negative impact on learning.
With an eye on our children’s future, the District has begun to explore potential solutions. We are determined to make fiscally responsible decisions to transform our schools into modern places of learning—capable of utilizing new technology and adapting to new curricula in order to continue providing the highest quality education.
Recently, the District took initial steps toward receiving partial funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), a state-funded program, to help pay for construction, renovations and repairs to our elementary schools. We are very excited that the MSBA recently voted to invite Westwood into its eligibility period, during which time specific plans will be formulated with input from the community. Unlike many school districts that have applied for eligibility multiple times without success, Westwood succeeded in its first attempt. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to carefully plan how we will invest in educating the Class of 2030 and beyond. The resulting project will be an investment in the future of our community and the children to come whose education we are charged with safeguarding.
The District is committed to keeping all residents informed and engaged, so that everyone understands the choices and challenges we will face and has the chance to contribute to the conversation. Over the next several months, we want to engage with you in a visioning process that looks toward the immediate future, while also considering the community’s needs for the next 30 to 50 years. We want to hear your concerns and opinions, understand what we as a community value in education, and ultimately determine the scope and direction of our capital projects.
To that end, we are launching a new website—www.westwoodschoolbuilding.com—where we will post the latest information as soon as it becomes available. In addition, we will offer multiple, ongoing opportunities—like school tours, forums and Q&A sessions, and surveys—to allow for community participation and feedback.
Lastly, we’ll regularly issue communications like this one to draw attention to specific issues and developments. These messages will be sent to the District’s email list, local newspapers, the Council on Aging, and the town newsletter. They will also be posted on the new website and promoted through the Westwood Schools social media channels.
We believe that only by collaborating respectfully and thoroughly as a community can we achieve the outcomes our children deserve. We hope you feel the same, and we look forward to working with you.
Emily J. Parks
Superintendent of Schools
Carol S. Lewis
School Committee Chairperson
Receive updates via email.
MSBA Project Update (Sept. 2018)
Membership of School Building Committee (Aug. 2018)
Initial Compliance Certification (Aug. 2018)
Educational Profile Questionnaire (Aug. 2018)
Town Meeting Warrant Article
Deerfield Tour Flyer
Hanlon Tour Flyer
Sheehan Tour Flyer
Community Forum Presentation (March/April 2018)
Capital Needs Study (June 2015)
Mass. School Building Authority Statement of Interest