Modular Classrooms In Need of Costly Repairs
With declining elementary enrollments projected, however, can they last long enough for tough decisions to be made?
The modular classrooms at several of the town’s elementary schools are old and in need of expensive repairs or replacement, according to an evaluation of the structures completed by Roger Gurney.
Gurney, project manager of the new high school construction, said he could not say how long the oldest modulars at Hardy, Upham and Hunnewell or the relatively newer ones at Fiske and Schofield could last.
It is a key question for the School Committee.
With elementary school enrollment projections showing a decrease in students over the next few years, members will likely be looking at the possibility of redistricting or even closing one of the town’s seven elementary schools to accommodate the changing demographics.
But those decisions can’t be made without firmer enrollment figures that Superintendent Bella T. Wong said won’t become clearer for two more years.
“Just one additional year will give us a better picture,” Wong said.
In the meantime, the modulars which were purchased with the expectation of lasting 5 to 10 years, in some cases, have lasted 18.
And whether they will last another couple years while the enrollment question is answered is unclear.
“I wholeheartedly agree that they have outlived their usefulness,” said School Committee member Steve Burtt. “But can we get a few more years out of them?”
That is something Gurney said he couldn’t answer.
What he could say, however, was that making the repairs needed would be expensive.
He said any work done on the modular classrooms would set in motion new code standards that weren’t in place when they were first built, including sprinkler systems.
In addition, new modulars may have to be located in different locations, further away from the existing building than the current ones.
It is the outsides of the modular classrooms that are in need of repair, the insides at each school are in good condition, according to Gurney.
“Obviously they need to be replaced,” said School Committee member Suzy Littlefield. “The question is whether we need them. My hope is that we can start taking these modulars offline, at least some of them.”
The School Committee will wait for more information before making a decision on how to proceed.