Concord schools, YMCA thinking about joint facility

  • Beth Stern-Elgeneidy teaches a fitness class at the Concord Family YMCA in downtown Concord on Thursday, July 6, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Visitors hit the weight room at the Concord Family YMCA in downtown Concord on Thursday, July 6, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staffVisitors hit the weight room at the Concord Family YMCA in downtown Concord on Thursday, July 6, 2017.

  • A hallway of sixth-grade classrooms is shown at Rundlett Middle School. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Friday, July 07, 2017

The Concord School District and the Concord Family YMCA are thinking about joining forces to build a facility serving as both a new middle school for the district and a second location for the Y.

The district has long been eyeing Rundlett Middle School, which was built in 1957, for major renovations or a complete overhaul. Meanwhile, the Y, with upward of 10,000 unique patrons visiting its downtown location on North State Street last year, has been thinking about expanding.

“My belief is that the future of facilities is not going to necessarily be a taxpayer-funded building alone. I think you’re going to have to look at (getting) more out of these facilities. And if you can do it in a safe manner, and create that opportunity between nonprofits and government entities, I think that that’s something that’s worth looking at,” said Jack Dunn, the business administrator for Concord schools.

The Y and the district already partner on before- and after-school programs at multiple schools in the district, and the nonprofit immediately rose to the top as the district began considering outside partners, Dunn said.

School districts across the country have been exploring joint-use partnerships with outside nonprofits or other governmental entities like parks departments. Dunn and Concord Superintendent Terri Forsten said the district has been corresponding at length with a district in Lincoln, Neb., which is now embarking on its third joint facility with its local Y.

HMFH, an architectural firm based out of Cambridge, Mass., will report back to the school board in September with a feasibility study looking at a range of options and cost estimates.

Those options will include a new middle school with and without the Y, and with or without Grade 5. District leaders are considering bringing fifth grade into the middle school in case its elementary schools start to offer full-day kindergarten. The firm, which also designed the district’s three new elementary schools, will look at a remodeling the existing structure instead of rebuilding as well.

The firm’s report will include an accounting of what the school would need in terms of repairs if it weren’t rebuilt.

For Forsten, the building isn’t just old and in need of rehabilitation – it was also built according to an outdated mode of teaching. The middle school was originally constructed as a junior high, she said, when students were strictly segregated by age and subject matter.

“Middle school is meant to be a more integrated time of study for kids,” she said.

District officials said it’ll be anywhere from three to five years before anything is built, and they emphasize that all ideas are very tentative. A working group of parents, teachers, board members and community partners has already met three times for four-hour workshops to think about what its hopes for a new or renovated facility are.

Ideas included air conditioning, better access for people with disabilities, maker-spaces, solar panels, an outdoor amphitheater, a multi-sport athletic stadium, a theater for school and community use, tennis courts, a weight room, a rooftop garden, and outdoor classrooms.

Concord YMCA CEO Jim Doremus said it’s far too early to tell what a second Y facility might look like.

“There’s a whole large wish list. But at this point it’s premature to lock into anything,” he said. “It has to work for the school. It has to work for the Y. And it has to work for the community.”

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)

Clarification: This article has been edited to include Jim Doremus’ title. A previous version had in part omitted it.