Hollis Brookline Cooperative School Board discusses reconfiguration Trying to address NEASC issues at high school

HOLLIS – At a meeting of the Hollis Brookline Cooperative School Board on April 16, Eric Horton, SAU 41 business administrator, presented a plan to recapture classroom space and address overcrowding in the cafeteria at Hollis Brookline High School.

These are in response to the concerns raised by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that could affect renewal of the school’s accreditation. A $2.5 million bond warrant to build an addition and renovate existing space failed to get a supermajority at the annual meeting in March, so the board must find solutions within its budget.

According to Horton, changing from round to rectangular tables in the cafeteria would increase capacity so that 300 students could be seated in there at a time. This would eliminate the need for students to eat anywhere else in the building, and would free the mini-cafeteria so it could be used as a classroom during lunch periods, resulting in a gain of three-sevenths of a classroom.

The cost of rectangular tables remains to be researched, but Horton said money from the food service fund balance could be used to purchase new tables.

To address the lack of teacher work space and meeting space, the proposal calls for converting the principal’s office to a conference room, moving the principal to the current assistant principal’s office, and moving the assistant to the second floor. A classroom currently attached to the library would be returned as a regular classroom. By removing/rearranging stacks and shrinking the area occupied by the circulation desk, there would be room to create a consolidated teacher work area and more open space.

Horton also recommended that two computer labs be converted to mobile labs to free up those two classrooms. Purchasing two laptop carts would cost about $16,000.

Rearranging the dance/choir room into two classrooms with a divider could present some scheduling challenges due to noise, but that would result in an additional classroom becoming available.

By recapturing these classrooms, the master schedule can be modified with a goal of reducing the number of teachers on carts.

To correct another NEASC deficiency, it has been proposed that the Technical Center (often referred to as the Robotics lab) be relocated so that room can revert to its intended use as a science laboratory. Although staff, parents and students have previously voiced opposition to moving the Robotics program out of the high school and into the middle school, Interim Superintendent John Moody offered a new perspective.

“We have to make a disconnect between where the kids are and the equipment,” he said. “We can’t continue Robotics on (the high school) campus, and there is available space on the first floor of the middle school. We need to make the maximum use of both facilities. If we are talking about the 21st century and how we do business, we need to put the two building diagrams side by side to give us the space we need.”

If these proposals sound familiar to some, it’s because they are essentially what was presented to the board in the January facilities study report conducted by Dr. Mark V. Joyce and Dr. Richard W. Ayers, of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, also referred to as the Joyce Report.

Several other changes were suggested to address lack of storage and teacher planning space, with any expenses to come from the unreserved fund balance. The board will vote on these proposals and projected expenditures at its next meeting on May 21.

In other business, several members of the public addressed the board in opposition to Common Core standards and lack of local control. Staff member Sue Haig and a parent both questioned the recent removal of machinery from the Robotics area due to concerns about the weight of the equipment on an upper floor. Chairman James O’Shea and Moody refused to answer their questions as to when the machinery might be returned, instead referring them to HBHS Principal Rick Barnes.

Valerie Ogden, of Brookline, spoke of the unresolved tensions between Hollis and Brookline, and had a suggestion for the board.

“The apportionment issue did strike a chord in both towns,” she said. “It brought up a lot of discussion and there is a definable rift. You should consider having meetings every other month in Brookline in the spirit of repairing that rift.”

Board members from each town met separately to discuss the applications for at-large representatives to the newly formed Apportionment Committee. Michelle Jimeno and Randy Farrell were appointed from Brookline and Dan Peterson and Bill Matthews will serve as the Hollis committee members.