Concord’s school board to contemplate future of Rundlett Middle School
Concord’s school board voted this week to begin contemplating the future of Rundlett Middle School.
“How much money do we keep investing in a building whose life span might be closing in on the end? That’s the question,” board member Kass Ardinger said.
Officially, the board has directed the administration to write a request for proposals for a “feasibility study” on the school. The primary goal of the study will be to determine what types of repairs – and how much money – Rundlett will require in the short and long term to keep functioning as a safe and effective middle school. Facilities Director Matt Cashman has already laid out roughly $3 million in necessary improvements over the next 10 years, including new bathrooms and roof replacements. A rough cost estimate for the study is $150,000.
Ardinger stressed that a complete renovation of Rundlett, built in 1957, is not happening soon or even formally planned, but that the board is in a similar spot with Rundlett as it was with the old elementary schools roughly a decade ago. Back then, the district hired an engineering firm to go through the old elementary schools and figure out the lifespan of infrastructure such as the electrical systems. Conducting a formal study gave the board factual information to present to the community about why it wanted to build three new schools.
“It’s not imminent that we will renovate, tear down or move,” Ardinger said. “As with (the elementary school) project, there is a lot of time and effort that must go into determining the needs of a building and the students it serves.”
Some board members questioned why a feasibility study was necessary at all, as Rundlett’s deteriorating quality is already well known. But board Chairman Clint Cogswell said it would be hard for the district to know exactly what actions to take without conducting the study. The district also has to pay down bonds from other building projects before it can think about bonding for another large-scale project, he said.
Beyond the cost of repairs, it’s important to evaluate whether Rundlett even fits the criteria of what today’s middle schools should look like, Superintendent Chris Rath said. The school was built as a junior high and has gone through many reorganizations as philosophies on middle school education changed. When it was built, for example, the school wasn’t made to accommodate the “clusters” that the middle school uses now, where each grade is divided into smaller groups of students who spend their days rotating through classes together.
At the next board meeting, Rath said she plans to suggest the board first commission a study on what an ideal middle school looks like before studying the physical repair needs of the building. That will give everyone a better sense of how far Rundlett is from the ideal, she said. (The board will ultimately have to vote on this suggestion.)
“The first step in a process ought to be to gather a group of people to think through what is good middle school education, then assess the facility,” Rath said.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)