Reading, MA — At the March 7 School Committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski provided insight into the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) decision to grant a potential Killam Elementary School building project access to the eligibility period. The eligibility period is a 270-day timeframe, starting on June 1. The school district has a list of tasks to complete and be accepted by the MSBA before entering the feasibility and schematic development phase. Activities that need to be filed during that period include the establishment of a school building committee and a vote by town meeting to authorize the funds for the feasibility study and schematic drawings of the project. Milaschewski stated that the feasibility study and schematic drawings could cost in excess of $2 million.
Director of Finance Susan Botten shared a timeline that suggested a town meeting vote on funding the studies could occur as early as the November 2022 session of Town Meeting. The district also needs to file a plan on how space could be used in a new building and will be seeking the input of educators and other consultants on the matter. School Committee chair Thomas Wise suggested that community input sessions regarding the educational needs for a new facility could occur as soon as May or June of this year.
Botten continued, sharing a timeline that indicated that Town Meeting could be asked for construction funding in November of 2024, with a town-wide ballot question as part of the April 2025 local election. Wise suggested that the time frame may not work perfectly with MSBA requirements and that there may need to be a special Town Meeting or a special election towards the end of the process. Milaschewski also noted that the percentage of MSBA reimbursement will not be known until much later in the process but could be up to 50% of the total project cost.
The School Committee also received an update on the February Vacation Learning Academy. Assistant Superintendent Sarah Hardy explained that the Academy was a pilot program designed to help reduce gaps in learning caused by the pandemic. A total of ninety-five students participated in the Academy from across grade levels. Hardy reported that positive feedback included small group size, focus on key standards, and increased confidence in foundational areas. Areas of growth include dividing the high school students by need as opposed to grade level, the possibility of adjusting timing of the sessions, and the provision of more information about student needs prior to the Academy. Hardy reported that another academy is planned for April vacation, and there is a possibility of summer sessions as well.
Milaschewski reported 193 students enrolled for kindergarten for the 2022-2023 school year, only nine registered for half-day classes. This is significantly below the projection of 250 enrollees based on census data. He said his team would be reaching out to families identified in the census as having children in the age group to determine their intentions. There will be discussed at the April 14 School Committee meeting.
The School Committee discussed the superintendent’s mid-year formative review with Wise, noting that the committee seemed aligned with its remarks. “Your entry and course setting has been strong,” Wise stated. “Momentum [in the district] has noticeably accelerated,” Milaschewski commented, “It is easy to hit the ground running in a district like this.”
The School Committee unanimously approved the principal search process to replace Dr. Joanne King as Wood End Elementary School principal after announcing her retirement last week. The position has been posted, and applications are due by March 28. An offer is expected to be extended to a candidate by April 12. School Committee member Shawn Brandt will represent the School Committee on the principal search screening committee.
The School Committee adjourned to executive session at 8:30 pm.