School space needs options discussed

HOLLIS­ – Members of the Hollis/Brookline Cooperative School District’s Long-range and Immediate Needs Evaluation Committee said Hollis and Brookline residents still have time to share input on solving the middle school space crunch.

With the Hollis/Brookline Middle School only two students away from its maximum capacity of 450, both towns are under the gun to come up with a possible warrant article for next March.

At Tuesday night’s School Administrative Unit LINE committee meeting, the four sub-committees that make up the group shared progress reports concerning proposed solutions with residents and local board members. Each sub-group gave an overview of its responsibilities in the evaluation process and shared highlights from its research.

Michelle Mosca, co-chairwoman of the Communications Committee, said the committee conducted 13 focus groups, including a group for people with no children in the school system, in July, August and September to get input from the communities. In total, 110 people attended the focus groups. The committee was also responsible for setting up the “listening boxes” in both towns for comments and suggestions.

Doug Cleveland, co-chair of the Finance Committee, said his group was responsible for defining and analyzing all “feasible” solutions to space needs based on the current projections provided. The committee narrowed the number of proposed solutions from 12 down to six. Those solutions were then presented to _survey. The committee also published reasons why the other six options were “deferred,” on the official SAU LINE Committee Web site.

Doug Cecil, a member of the SAU LINE Education/Planning Committee, responded to the “deferral” of certain options.

“Some issues that we brought up were dismissed as inconsequential . . . and not really explored,” he said.

One such issue, according to another resident present at the meeting, was relieving traffic congestion in the center of Hollis, where both the middle school and Hollis/Brookline High School are located. Cecil said options involving traffic reductions had been overlooked in favor of options devoted solely to alleviating the space crunch.

Mosca reminded those present that the survey was not the only outlet for community discussion, and that comments had come in through the “listening boxes,” which would also be considered.

Forrest Milkowski, co-chair of the Finance Committee, said although his group was responsible for evaluating the financial impact of each proposed option, the Co-op School Board would ultimately make the final determination for which approach to take.

According to the SAU LINE discussion guide released on Sept. 26, the projected first-year tax rate increase for three of the options went as follows:

n To add to or renovate the current middle school, Brookline would pay an additional 55 cents per $1,000 and Hollis would pay 40 cents.

n To build two new co-op middle schools, Brookline would pay $1.13 per $1,000 and Hollis would pay 82 cents.

n To build two new non-co-op middle schools using the co-op School Board salary schedule, Brookline would pay $2.52 per $1,000 and Hollis would pay $1.05.

Emily Cavalier can be reached at 594-5833 or