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Braintree looks for funding to meet ambitious school plans

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 1, 2013 11:34 AM

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Braintree school officials have some impressive plans for their public schools. The only thing standing in their way is finding the cash to make them a reality.

The vision is clear: updated, energy-efficient schools large enough for a burgeoning student body, with new technology for students to explore.

“There are a lot of exciting things,” said Superintendent Peter Kurzberg about some of the upgrades. “It only takes money.”

Officials have begun mapping out plans to seek financial assistance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for $6 million in upgrades to East Middle School.

The upgrades would include the replacement of the heating system, upgrades to the electrical system, the installation of a new fire suppression system, and some floor tile replacement. If all goes according to plan, the MSBA would pick up 48 percent of the cost.

“The next steps are we do have to take the proposal before the town counsel for them to approve, and the approval would occur at their second meeting in March – the 19th. From there we forward it to the state and then we wait to hear from them,” Kurzberg said.

The goal would be to undertake the upgrades in the summer of 2014.

Yet where the funding might come from within the town has yet to be determined, Kurzberg said.

All this alongside plans to add modular classrooms to all of Braintree’s elementary schools to satisfy space needs.

“That will be undertaken or at least proposals and final recommendation by the School Building Committee, which we had had in place for projects we did for the South [Middle School] projects and for window replacements,” Kurzberg said. “That’s the group that would be working on the plans for future expansion.”

Though the school department has had discussions with the MSBA on the town’s expansion needs, no formal proposal has been submitted to the state.

Thus, the estimated $4.2 million bill – which would provide four modular classrooms for all six of the town’s elementary school buildings – is still up for grabs.

Town officials aren’t only interested in the school buildings, but also the technology within them.

Kurzberg said the School Department will be seeking $133,648 in technology upgrades that would give Braintree High School wireless internet.

“If we had enough money to do everything, we’re probably in the $400,000 to $450,000 range to complete the rest of our schools, to make all of our buildings wireless,” Kurzberg said.

The hope is to undertake those upgrades over a three-year period, beginning in fiscal 2014, which starts July 1.

Ross Elementary School and Morrison Elementary School are already wireless.

“I think most districts are looking at it or in some fashion have some wireless. Two of our elementary currently are wireless … so we’re trying to expand,” Kurzberg said.

The upgrades are only contingent on receiving the funding, however other technology upgrades may be more imminent.

“We do have the challenge of replacing some of our older computers, particularly if we want to be prepared for the new state testing program that will come in the spring 2015,” Kurzberg said.

The new testing would replace MCAS. The exams are expected to be online, and schools would need to meet certain specifications for how many computers are available to each student.

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