In separate votes on Tuesday, both the Stoughton School Committee and the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved revised and updated Statements of Interest (SOIs) for Stoughton High School and the South Elementary School.
This moves the town another step closer to submitting these SOIs to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
Submitting an SOI is the first step in a lengthy process for replacing or renovating a school—it allows a school system to enter into dialogue with the MSBA.
Stoughton High is the higher priority of the two potential projects. While the physical needs are greater at the South, other factors, including sheer number of students using the building and potential of jeopardizing its NEASC accreditation if the building’s condition is not addressed, make the high school the top priority, school officials have said.
The deadline for submitting a SOI is Jan. 11, 2012. The chairs of both boards (Joyce Husseini, School Committee and John Stagnone, Selectmen), the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi, and the Town Manager Francis T. Crimmins, Jr., must sign the SOIs before they are submitted to the MSBA.
Selectman Cynthia Walsh made a motion to have the board of selectmen request that the town manager sign the documents before Dec. 30. If a district submits a SOI prior to the deadline and the MSBA has questions or concerns, they can be addressed, and Walsh wanted to take advantage of this “cure period.”
The motion passed 3-2 with Selectmen John Stagnone and John Anzivino joining Walsh in the majority.
The school department had previously appeared before the selectmen on Oct. 18 regarding the SOIs for the two schools. Selectmen voted unanimously to have Dr. Rizzi draft a SOI and then submit it to the Board for approval, prior to it being submitted to the MSBA.
Both boards then approved the SOIs in separate votes on Nov. 1. However, neither SOI was signed by the town manager or Stagnone because Crimmins found that the application used was outdated, so the school department submitted updated SOIs to selectmen on Dec. 7.
But at last Tuesday’s meeting on Dec. 7, members of the board of selectmen expressed concern that the school committee had not yet voted on these updated SOIs and cited errors in spelling and grammar, as well as concerns with the formatting and presentation of the two forms.
The selectmen then rescind their Nov. 1 vote, with the motion passing 4-1. Walsh was the lone dissenting vote.
On Dec. 13, the school committee voted on both revised documents at Stoughton High School and then joined the selectmen for the beginning of their meeting at town hall.
This joint session was brief, as selectmen raised no major concerns with either revised SOI.
Walsh thanked the School Department for their “extra work” and said the grammar and punctuation was “much better.” Anderson said it was “the first step in a long process” and complimented the schools for putting the documents together.
Dr. Rizzi, who was not at the Dec. 7 meeting, said she took “full responsibility for the errors and typos” in the previous document. She wanted to clarify that her absence had no reflection on the priority that the school system has placed upon the process of looking into replacing or renovating two of its buildings.
She told selectmen she was with her mother, who was gravely ill at the time, but is now recovering.
The South School opened in 1958, while the High School was originally built in 1923, with additions in 1952, 1955 and 1965. The SOIs spell out numerous physical issues with both buildings.
According to the Statements of Interest, once the SOIs have been submitted, the school department plans to present an article at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting to fund a feasibility study for both schools.