School board looks at build-out kindergarten cost

LYNDEBOROUGH – Costs of adding a kindergarten classroom and possibly additional space to the Central School range from $720,000 for just a kindergarten room to $990,000 for a larger expansion.

The figures were presented at a joint meeting of the building committee and school board on Nov. 20.

There are three options being considered: a kindergarten room only ($720,000); kindergarten plus one new classroom ($840,000); and kindergarten plus two new classrooms ($990,000).

All the plans include some renovations to the present school, including the addition of handicapped-accessible bathrooms and fixing the parking lot. The new construction also would meet the standard for a community shelter.

The larger addition was narrowly defeated last year.

The state requires that kindergarten be offered by all school districts by this fall.

The dozen people who attended the meeting agreed that any plan “will be a tough sell” with voters because tax bills just arrived, most with a large increase.

School board member Fran Bujak said the bond would fit into the town’s Capital Improvements Plan “without raising a spike” in taxes.

Budget Committee Member Karen Grybko agreed, but added, “We can afford the bond, but not the associated costs of running the building.”

Another cost concern was the Mascenic School District’s departure from SAU 63, which will mean additional administrative costs for Lyndebor ough. Some of those costs could be reduced if three school districts serving Wilton and Lyndeborough are combined, although that merger would not offset the loss of Mascenic’s contributions.

Asked what will happen if the voters say no to the kindergarten addition, Superintendent Leo Corriveau said the state could take away the Central School’s accreditation, which would allow parents to send their children elsewhere.

Resident Sally Curran said the town should “just close the school and tuition all the students elsewhere. It would be cheaper.”

Current enrollment is about 84 students. The largest number ever enrolled was about 120, some years ago.

With the kindergarten-only addition, the state would pay 100 percent of the kindergarten-related construction costs and the town would be liable for $180,000 for the other work.

With the addition of more classrooms, state reimbursement drops and the town’s cost for either of the larger additions would be more than $325,000.

The next school board meeting is Dec. 11; the board will decide on which option to recommend after it meets with the town budget committee on Dec. 16.

A major unanswered question is the number of students who would attend the new kindergarten. The average class size is 12, but that is no guarantee that many will show up, mainly because it would be a half-day program and many parents require all-day programs or day care.

Finding another school to take the students on tuition – which the state would allow for up to three years – is difficult because “we can’t guarantee a number,” Corriveau said. Private kindergartens have to meet state standards and many only meet health and safety codes, but not state educational standing, he said.

Curran said residents of North Lyndeborough would prefer to send their children to New Boston since it is closer, and McEntee pointed out that Perham Corner students are closer to Milford.

It was agreed that the school board will present one building plan to voters in March. If that fails, a second article will present a temporary back-up plan, probably leasing kindergarten space somewhere, possibly from the United Church.

Even if the addition passes, some kind of temporary solution will have to be provided because any new construction cannot be completed before mid-year.

“The state says we have to provide kindergarten next September,” Corriveau said.