Space Needs at Bedford Schools to Be Accommodated Without Major Building Projects

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Significant shifts in programs such as English as a Second Language (ESL) and Special Education, along with enrollment spikes at some grade levels, have necessitated a close examination of how space is being used at the four Bedford Schools.

Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills said that his administration has taken a careful look at whether there is a need to expand any of the schools and has decided that rather than add to any of the buildings, the solution is to reconfigure current space. That decision, he said, represents a “cost avoidance” of an estimated $4.6 million for the town.

To illustrate the kinds of issues at hand, Sills described two Davis School ESL teachers who now share a small, partitioned space that is inadequate for the individualized program they support. At Lane, ESL programs are also at the root of some of the space needs as greater numbers of international families move to Bedford. Additionally, since more Special Education services have been brought in-house—as opposed to outside placements—the need for spaces for intervention and for small group instruction have increased. Out-of-district placements, once the norm, carry higher per student tuition costs than in-house programs, so the in-house programs are another form of cost avoidance.

Also at Lane, due to a particularly large Kindergarten class in 2009 which now making its way through the system, an additional full-sized, regular education classroom is needed.The impact of this large class will be felt as it moves from school to school over time.

At the middle school, additional rooms for academic interventions and ESL are necessary, as are rooms for itinerant teachers who now travel from classroom to classroom with no home base. Some accommodations—like splitting the large group instruction room into two classrooms—have already been made. Sills said that the Facilities Departments has done what could easily be done at the middle school and the two elementary schools to address the growing space issue. Now the level of need has risen to a higher point.

Bedford High School—built for 850 students, but with a current population of 881 and projections above 900 starting in 2015—is also feeling the pinch. The Social Studies and English departments, Sills said, are in the greatest straits. One possible solution is to re-purpose the computer labs since the move toward one-to-one computing with the iPad program will eliminate the need for specific rooms for technology education.

All in all, the requests to Capital Expenditures (CapEx) for funds for space reconfiguration amount to $159,360 for six projects. If the requests make their way on to the CapEx priority projects list, the town will vote on whether to approve the request at the March Annual Town Meeting.