Hollis/Brookline school survey results to be released

HOLLIS – The raw data from a survey to generate solutions to the Hollis/Brookline Middle School space crunch – commissioned with taxpayer money – won’t be available until after the final analysis is presented.

With the exception of Betty Hall, the Brookline Finance Committee representative to the School Administrative Unit 41 Board, the SAU voted Tuesday to release the data after its Jan. 6 meeting. That’s the date Steve Thurston of Northmark Group, the firm conducting the survey, presents his various breakdowns of the 1,840 responses to the 22-question survey.

“We’ll turn that (database) over when the project’s done,” Thurston said. “That’s your product, you paid for that.”

“If you do (release the raw data) before then, it could really muddy the waters,” Cooperative School Board member Timothy Bevins said. “The chances of screwing it up is pretty high. I’d rather get all the cuts you want from Steve.”

Kathi Lewis, member of the SAU Long-term and Immediate Needs Survey Committee, said “We paid good money to have Steve (mail) these surveys when we could have (mailed) them ourselves, so that we could keep our hands off them.”

Thurston appeared before the SAU Board on Tuesday night to present some preliminary findings from the survey. Survey highlights include the following:

n Of the 6,760 surveys mailed to registered voters in Hollis and Brookline, 27 percent were returned. Thurston said certain respondents didn’t answer each survey question, meaning that the number of responses didn’t always add up to 1,840.

n Fifty-five percent of respondents had school-age children.

n 75 percent of those who responded said they support the current cooperative agreement the towns have for students in grades 7 through 12.

n 60 percent of respondents have voted against previous addition or renovation proposals for the Hollis/Brookline Middle School. Of that 60 percent, 60 percent cited cost as the number one factor preventing their support. Those respondents said the overall project was either too expensive or they couldn’t afford the increased taxes.

n Question six revealed that 80 percent of respondents do believe there is an additional need for space at the school.

n When it came to selecting a location for a possible solution, 498 people replied that parking or traffic was their top concern, while 349 people voted that busing was their main concern. Having a middle school in both towns was the priority for 276 people.

Thurston said when it comes time for him to present the survey analysis, “I imagine we might provide some verbatim responses. I haven’t yet decided, but the intent is to be as inclusive as possible.”

Voters who would like to request different perspectives on the data may do so at tonight’s SAU LINE Steering Committee meeting at 7 p.m. at Hollis/Brookline High School.