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The K-8 Schools Master Plan will inform the City’s approach to school building development over the next generation. The goal of the plan is to ensure our school system meets the current and future educational needs of Somerville Public Schools (SPS) students. This includes preparing for any anticipated changes in enrollment as well as evolving programmatic needs necessary to provide a high-quality 21st Century education to all students. The plan also seeks to solve for two existing facility challenges at our two oldest schools: The Benjamin B. Brown School and the Winter Hill Community Innovation School. In short, the K-8 Schools Master Plan is the first step in the process of planning for the major renovation of current schools or new school construction.

Master Plan Process/Timeline
 

Master Plan Development/Funding

January/February 2022: Ballantyne Administration Requests Schools Master Plan Shortly After Assuming Office

Shortly after the Ballantyne Administration assumed office in January 2022, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne requested that planning begin for both the long-range building needs of the School District as well as for the immediate needs of Winter Hill and Brown Schools, which both face challenges. Work to prepare for a K-8 Schools Master Plan that would include assessing the needs and options for the Brown and Winter Hill schools was swiftly begun. 
 

March/April 2022: Master Plan Outline Developed and Funding Plan Prepared 

The Master Plan outline is developed, cost analysis is conducted, and a proposal for funding of the plan via the fiscal year 2023 budget (covering July 2022 to June 2023) is prepared for the Mayor’s Office and Superintendent by City infrastructure staff in coordination with Somerville Public Schools. 
 

May/June 2022: City Submits and Receives City Council Approval for Funding for the Master Plan  

In May 2022, Mayor Ballantyne’s first City budget is submitted to the City Council, and the first Schools budget prepared collaboratively with SPS, the City, and the School Committee under her administration is submitted to the School Committee. Among other items, they include funding for the Master Plan in the City budget, funding for several school yard renovation projects including at the Brown and Healey Schools, and a historic 10% increase overall in the Schools budget. The SPS budget is passed by the School Committee. And both budgets are passed by the City Council.
 

Master Plan Execution

July 2022 to March 2023: Enrollment Study, the First Step of the Master Plan 

The enrollment study is a crucial initial step in the planning process. It includes detailed projections of the future student population of the district and will inform the development of a strategic plan to meet the needs of those students. 

Launched in fall 2022 and led by SPS, the enrollment study by Flo Analytics estimates future enrollment on a 5- and 10-year horizon.

The preliminary data indicate either a fairly steady or a slight decrease in enrollment over the next 10 years. At the higher end, the forecast indicates about a 2% increase in overall student enrollment between this year through SY33. At the lower end, the forecast indicates anywhere from a 5% to a 9% decrease in enrollment between this year through SY33.  

You can read the full report here

January-April 2023: Building Capacity Study

The Building Capacity Study or existing building assessment is another part of the first phase of the K-8 Master Plan. A Building Capacity Study looks at how many staff and students our current schools can support. Evaluating how many classrooms our schools can hold and the number of students those classrooms can serve well informs us to what extent our existing buildings can support the needs of SPS. Brown and Winter Hill School have more exhaustive existing building assessments because of the age of the schools. The City completed the Building Capacity Study in April 2023.  
 

Summer - Fall 2023: Gap Analysis 

The second phase of the Master Plan process compares our enrollment and space needs both now and into the future with the buildings we currently have to determine our building needs going forward. This phase involves problem-solving for the needs identified. Those needs can include new types of spaces that best serve modern educational instruction, expanded specialized space for growing programs like the AIM program for neurodiverse students, or new or renovated structures needed due to building age or deterioration. We then evaluate the options for reconfiguring, renovating, or replacing buildings (whether in one or more projects). These options also go through a cost estimating exercise. This is just the start of how Somerville looks at needs and options. Parents, guardians, and the full community are engaged next as we determine together what is best.  

Winter 2023 - Fall 2025: Feasibility Study and Community Process  

Intensive community process and the formation of building committees will begin during this period. During this phase, we  will solidify plans for building projects in our school district. As those plans take shape with community input, the City will estimate their costs and explore ways to finance school construction or renovation with approval from the City Council and/or voters. These steps are called a Feasibility Study, which sounds like we are just evaluating information, but actually this is the start of preparing rough designs and mapping out general aspects of projects our schools need and that our community wants. 

This phase includes a vital financial step as well: identifying funding. The City will seek state funding via the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The MSBA requires all of the previous planning and study steps above (started way back in January 2022) before they will consider funding a portion of a project. The City and SPS have already taken the first step in starting our funding application process with MSBA for Brown and Winter Hill by submitting a Statement of Interest in April 2023.
 

Starting Fall 2025: Design, Followed by Construction 

Upon completion of the feasibility study and community process, work on the specific project design will get underway. Once funding is in place and the design is completed, the construction process will begin. From finding a contractor to installing the last door or light, school projects can take several years to renovate or build as can be seen with the new High School or the renovated East Somerville Community School.  
 

Current School Buildings
 

Somerville Public Schools currently has nine active school buildings. While the K-8 Schools Master Plan is critical to assessing the needs and future all of our schools, every individual buildings each has its own history, needs, and maintenance requirements.  

The City is in the process of compiling school-building specific information at the pages listed below: 

  • Winter Hill Community Innovation School
  • Benjamin B. Brown School (forthcoming)
  • Somerville High School (forthcoming)
  • Arthur D. Healey School (forthcoming)
  • Albert F. Argenziano School (forthcoming)
  • East Somerville Community School (forthcoming)
  • John F. Kennedy School (forthcoming)
  • Capuano Early Childhood Center (forthcoming)
  • West Somerville Neighborhood School (forthcoming)
     

 

Interim Investments and Maintenance

In just the past few years, the City of Somerville has made several, significant investments and repairs in its schools, including improvements to schoolyards, new HVAC (heating and cooling) systems and controls, and work to improve ventilation and air filtration in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fiscal year 2023 and fiscal year 2024 budget investments

Somerville’s fiscal year 2023 budget (covering July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023) included an $8.4 million, or 10%, increase in the Somerville Public Schools (SPS) budget—the largest in SPS history. This increase helped fund a number of key building-related initiatives across the district:

  • The districtwide enrollment study ($550,000)
  • New HVAC equipment and controls system evaluation ($300,000)
  • Ongoing investment in key positions supporting buildings and maintenance including SPS Assistant Superintendent of Operations, DPW Superintendent of Buildings, DPW Prevention Maintenance Manager, Deputy Director of Capital Projects

The fiscal year 2024 budget also includes a 7.8% increase in the SPS budget.
 

Testing and making needed upgrades to school HVAC heating and cooling systems

Beginning in fiscal year 2023, the Department of Infrastructure and Asset Management began retro-commissioning, or stress testing, the heating and cooling systems at Somerville’s schools.  

This stress testing consists of reviews by contracted experts who test and analyze the performance of our existing systems in order to:  

  • Check the working condition of equipment
  • Identify parts in need of replacement or refurbishment 
  • Inform short- and longer-term roadmaps for equipment investments
     

Stress testing of school facilities is currently underway. Testing of all nine school buildings is expected to be completed within five years.

  • West Somerville Neighborhood School and the Arthur D. Healey School were completed in fiscal year 2023.
    • The upgrade process is underway, starting with initial steps required for hiring contractors to make the needed upgrades. 
  • Stress testing at the Albert F. Argenziano and the Capuano Early Childhood Center are scheduled for fiscal year 2024 (covering July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024). 
  • Other school buildings will undergo stress testing over the coming years.  
     

Addressing short-term ongoing maintenance needs  

The Department of Public Works, Department of Infrastructure and Asset Management, and Constituent Services (311) teams work regularly and closely with Somerville Public Schools staff and administration to address maintenance and upkeep needs and concerns. Short-term needs are addressed by submitting 311 Work Orders (requests for service) so that the relevant City staff can track and address needs on an ongoing basis.  
 

Improving Asset and Repair Request Management Processes    

In addition to working to address short-term needs, the Department of Public Works (DPW), Department of Infrastructure and Asset Management (IAM), and Constituent Services (311) teams are in the process of developing improved work order and asset management systems.  

Included in this effort:  

  • Implementation of a new asset management system to track in more detail all of our facilities and the repairs and upgrades made to them
    • This system will be integrated with the current 311 work order (request) system 
  • Addition of a Building Maintenance Manager to DPW staff
    • Serves as a connector to strengthen coordination between IAM, DPW, 311, the Schools, and other relevant City divisions
  • Additional geographic information systems staff 
    • Improved asset data that can be used to inform strategic, and proactive maintenance
       

Get Involved

Family and public input is an important part of the K-8 Master Plan development and school building investments. Building committees made up of community members are an essential part of the process and there will be extensive opportunities for community input during the Feasibility Study.

As those opportunities become available more information on how to get involved will be made available here and through other City and school channels.

 

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