State Turns Down Funding Request To Replace Peebles Elementary School
By: Michael J. Rausch
The Bourne school district's request to the state for money to tear down the James F. Peebles Elementary School, and build a new school, has been turned down.
Edward S. Donoghue, director of Business Services for Bourne Public Schools, told the school committee of the decision by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) during Wednesday night's monthly board meeting.
"We didn't make the cut this round of eligibility," Mr. Donoghue said. He said that the school district will submit another request for funding next year.
The school committee submitted a Statement of Interest for funding to the MSBA in November of last year, after both the Capital Outlay Committee and the board of selectmen gave their approval to the board's proposal to rebuild Peebles Elementary, which was built in 1953.
Some of the problems with Peebles Elementary include a library that is in a former classroom and is used primarily for signing out books. It has very limited reading space and no computer access. Also, the music room is in the former girls' locker room. The classroom space is in what had been cubicles for showers, and since they are covered in tile, it is acoustically bad for a music room.
What once was the boys' shower room is now a teachers' lounge, and an enclosed space inside the cafeteria that used to be the teachers' lunchroom is now the art room. Even more problematic, the electrical and heating systems were built in the 1950s, so they are outdated and inefficient. Peebles Principal Wayne D. Francis said that the school complies with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, but barely.
"It's not inaccessible, it's just very inconvenient," Mr. Francis said, calling the school's elevator system antiquated.
The MSBA received 280 requests from 121 school districts across the state. One hundred-fourteen were re-submittals from previous years and 72 were first-time submissions. Of the 280 submittals, only 14 were accepted into the MSBA’s eligibility program, the arm of the agency that assists in funding the building of new schools, Mr. Donoghue said.
School board member Anne Marie Siroonian asked on what the MSBA based its rejection. Ms. Siroonian asked if the decision was based on this being a first-time request, or whether the authority felt that Bourne had not meet their guidelines for obtaining the necessary additional funding for the project. Member Laura M. Scena explained that the authority does not give its reasons for rejecting a proposal.
"It's just based on, they said no," Ms. Scena said.
Back in 2003, Kaestle Boos Associates of New Britain, Connecticut, conducted a feasibility study on Peebles Elementary. The results led them to recommend extensive renovations. In 2008, a study of town buildings in Bourne by the Cecil Group, a Boston-based planning and design firm, gave Peebles a rating of one star out of five for its physical condition—the lowest possible rating.
That same year, school committee members considered two options for the school. The first option was a $28.5 million renovation to take place in Fiscal Year 2010. The second option was to be a series of improvements to the school over three years that would cost approximately $13.7 million. After touring the school later that year, members of the capital outlay committee told the school committee that the second option no longer seemed viable.
Following that tour in 2008, the Capital Outlay Committee and the school committee came up with a few new options. Those included knocking down Peebles and building a new school in its place, building a new school at a different location, or making additions to the Bournedale Elementary School. School and town officials all agreed on one point after touring the school. Peebles is too small to accommodate students under modern educational initiatives.
Mr. Donoghue said that because this request was turned down, the entire application process must be gone through again.
"The school committee would have to approve it, and then we would have to get it on the agenda of the board of selectmen to approve it," he said.
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