leicester facilities dept

Contractor/Visitor Safety Manual
Middle School Facility Needs

Facilities Study

Leicester Public Schools

Facilities Study Press Release
Leicester Public Schools

Leicester, January 2, 2015: A capacity/programmatic and engineering assessment of school
facilities in Leicester was recently completed by Johnson Roberts Associates, Inc. The funding
for the study was approved by voters at the May, 2014 town meeting in order to provide
information to the School Committee for making decisions regarding all major facility
improvements, including renovations, additions, or new construction, over the next 10 years.
The work of the firm was overseen by a committee consisting of school administrators, school
committee members, a select board member, parents, and town residents. This committee
reviewed the firm’s analysis of the existing conditions of each facility, an analysis of enrollment
projections, and potential solutions and solution costs. Meetings with district staff and town
residents contributed to an understanding of the educational and community needs as well as
the best use and location of future facilities.

The enrollment of Leicester Public Schools, like for many Massachusetts communities, has
declined in recent years. In 2005, the PK-12 enrollment was 1859 pupils, while in 2014 this
number had dropped by nearly 300 students, to 1561, leading school officials to believe that
the use of fewer facilities, perhaps on one campus, could result in both cost savings to
taxpayers and a more cohesive program for students.

The size of existing facilities was found to be adequate for current and future school
populations, however, the allocation of space for specific functions, such as classrooms,
libraries, and cafeterias, was not aligned to recommendations of the Massachusetts School
Building Authority. Additionally, the engineering analysis of the facilities resulted in significant
recommendations for facility modifications and repairs, some of which relate to life safety
and/or code compliance requiring prompt attention. While firm representatives were quick to
point out that no issues were found relating to acute, immediate safety issues,
recommendations of engineers include upgrades to emergency lighting systems and fire alarm
systems, providing GFI protection to kitchen receptacles, and replacing receptacles and
circuitry to replace extension cord usage. Further recommendations to ensure compliance
with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) are provided in the overall analysis as well as
recommendations to improve energy conservation and school security. Finally, the life
expectancy of key facility systems, including roof and boilers, were provided to give school
officials information about future facilities’ needs.

The results of the study are providing school officials with the necessary information to make
decisions about what facility projects should be initiated in the short term and which should be
deferred until a long term solution is found. While the facilities committee recognizes that the
town currently lacks the funding to address all issues immediately, the expenditure of funds for
facilities needs must be made with adequate information or limited resources will be misused.
The allocation of town funds for a facilities study was an important step town residents made to
ensure that all future town expenditures on facilities are well spent.

In addition to an analysis of existing facilities, Johnson Roberts Associates provided sample
options, including a repairs only option, that are designed to meet the facility and educational
needs of the town’s schools. Excluding the repairs-only option, other potential options result in
fewer school buildings all on one campus, enabling efficiencies in staffing and programs. At a
meeting attended by members of the finance advisory board, town capital improvement
committee, select board, school committee, school administrators, and town and state officials,
results of the facility study and potential solutions were presented. Such solutions are not
directly being considered at this time but were only shared as a means of comparing various
options and for developing an understanding of how the town may address school facilities
issues in the future. The presentation resulted in what might be characterized as a shared
enthusiasm for the future of Leicester’s schools.

The school facilities capital committee will continue to meet regularly to determine next steps,
which are expected to include an application for MSBA funding for its accelerated repair
program for repairs to the high school roof, which has met its life expectancy. Additionally, the
committee is investigating funding considerations to address the other facilities’ needs
identified through the study. While state funding for repairs are limited, reimbursement for new
facilities or significant renovation to existing facilities, which would not only address failing
systems but would also provide improvements to town schools, may provide town residents
with a more cost effective solution

Copies of the executive summary of the facilities study is available at the Leicester Public
Library, at the Select Board’s Office in Town Hall, and at the Superintendent’s Office. The
study documents will also be available online on this page in the near future.

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