Thursday, April 18, 2013
Schools to replace contaminated windows

The Canton School Committee received some positive financial news last week when it learned that the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) had approved a 45 percent reimbursement of a major window replacement project at the Hansen Elementary School and Galvin Middle School. The town will finance the entire project through a bond, and the state will issue reimbursement funds once the project is complete.

Voters at last year’s annual town meeting had appropriated $754,000 for the project, but the total cost skyrocketed to $2.3 million following the discovery of contaminants and asbestos in the windows at both schools in early March. The windows were first built in the mid 1960s.

School Superintendent Jeff Granatino said bids will go out in May — assuming the financing is approved at town meeting — and the goal is to begin construction at the end of the next school year, with an expected completion date of September 2014.

The reason for the delay is that school officials do not want construction done while school is in session. The contaminants do not pose a danger in their present dormant state.

Granatino said the application to the MSBA was buoyed by the fact that the town had its financing in place, thanks to the support of Finance Director Jim Murgia, the Finance Committee, and the Board of Selectmen. Granatino, School Business Manager Ken Leon, state Representative Bill Galvin, and a representative of state Senator Brian Joyce all attended the meeting at which the MSBA voted.

In other financial news, following a public hearing last week, the committee finalized its budget plan for next year and reaffirmed its submission of a $33.32 million operating budget, which represents an increase of $1.3 million, or 4.3 percent, compared to the current year’s budget. The committee will go into the May 13 town meeting with the support of the FinCom.

This would mark the second consecutive year that the school budget has seen an increase after experiencing a slight reduction of $112,000 in FY12. The new figure includes the current base budget of $32.01 million as well as funding for all new contract obligations for school employees and various program enhancements amounting to $455,668. The committee decided to set aside an additional $318,466 to cover potential increases in special education spending, which fluctuates from year to year depending on the number of out-of-district placements.

The enhancements include portions of a teaching position for social studies, world languages, performing arts, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at Canton High School, and portions of an English language arts position and six team leaders at the Galvin Middle School.

At the elementary level there is new money for three educational assistants and three technology assistants at the JFK, Hansen, and Luce; a speech-language pathology assistant; two tutors at the Rodman Early Childhood Center; assistant principals at each of the elementary schools; and the restoration of one elementary school custodian cut during a previous budget year.

Granatino said additional items could be funded if the special education money is not needed next year, including a late bus at the Galvin, additional instructional supplies, expansion of world languages across all grades, more equitable funding for extracurricular programs, and enhancement of professional development offerings.

The committee will also submit a cash capital budget of $443,000, which includes $136,152 for building repairs and improvements; $16,000 for grounds improvement; $191,431 for technology needs; and $115,015 for textbooks and a new educator evaluation management system.

Areas addressed in both the capital and debt capital plans include bathroom partitions at the Luce; system-wide HVAC improvements; replacement of a hot water pump at the Galvin; retaining wall repairs at the Hansen; an art lab computer and Photoshop upgrade at CHS; security additions at the Rodman; cafeteria tables at the Luce; and structural engineering work on the bleachers at CHS.