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School Committee awards Hopkins contract to Commodore Builders

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

The School Committee at its Thursday meeting awarded a pre-construction contract of $140,000 to Commodore Builders for the Hopkins School addition/renovation project.

The funding comes from the $3 million previously appropriated for the feasibility phase of the project.

Jeff D’Amico, vice president/senior project manager at Vertex, said Commodore was chosen following a 3 1/2-month process with four companies submitting RFPs (requests for proposals) that included pricing and technical proposals as well as interviews.

D’Amico said the firm would be involved in the town permitting process with the Conservation Commission and Planning Board and would work with the Fire Department for safety planning purposes in this phase.

Work with a laser scan to identify where utilities are located above ceiling tiles starts Tuesday, he said.

The project is about halfway through the design/development phase, D’Amico added.

School Committee vice chair Amanda Fargiano questioned what would happen to the work done to date and between now and May if Town Meeting does not approve the $49.7 million capital request.

“Construction has not been voted on yet. What is the shelf life? Will it have to be redone?” she asked.

D’Amico responded that Commodore Builders would be helpful in providing advice on the approach to the project and the permitting process. The contract runs through the end of summer. If Town Meeting does not give its approval, D’Amico said the contract would be paused.

The district would have to decide whether it wants to come back later with another request and/or reassess the proposal and make changes.

“The scanning elements would be reusable. Some of [the work] may not,” he said.

D’Amico said it would depend on if the project was “overhauled” versus in need of numbers being updated.

Prior to the vote, the committee spoke about a recent public forum regarding the Hopkins School project and some of the questions and concerns that have been received.

School Committee member Lori Nickerson said it is necessary for the board to fully inform voters about the “interconnectivity” between the Elmwood School replacement and Hopkins School projects.

“What I’ve noticed from the questions from the public is a fundamental misunderstanding as to how they impact each other,” she said.

Nickerson urged the Vertex representative to include that information in future presentations.

“It’s not just the population [of Hopkins School] in isolation,” she said. “It [affects] the middle school population.”

School Committee member Susan Stephenson said voters who approved the Elmwood School project may feel “sideswiped” seeing this request. “That’s why it is crucial to see the cascade [effect].”

Chair Nancy Cavanaugh said information is available on the district’s website. She also said talking about the Hopkins project as part of a larger picture is key, as is addressing the cost of not doing it.

Contracts awarded for HVAC, child care

The School Committee authorized a contract for 2025-27 with the option of an additional three years to MetroWest YMCA for before-school and after-school care. The $551,688 pact recipient is the current vendor, and continuing “makes it nice for families,” said Nancy Cavanaugh.

The board also authorized a three-year contract of $220,200 to Ark Mechanical for HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) preventative maintenance, another repeat vendor with whom the district has been pleased, said Assistant Superintendent Susan Rothermich.

The committee agreed to fund a $2,000 stipend out of the athletic revolving fund for an assistant varsity girls golf coach. Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said the team has 18 members, with eight playing at away tournaments. The assistant would remain home with the non-playing members. The superintendent said it is time to move away from having these roles done by volunteers.

“If they are going to be responsible for our kids, then they need to be paid,” she said.

New school naming, SEPAC on agenda

Two additional names were put forward in person as suggestions for the new elementary school: Aimee Phipps, longtime educator in Hopkinton, and Mary B. Nealon, former teacher/guidance counselor and town clerk.

The superintendent reviewed the same list of submitted name suggestions from two weeks ago, but highlighted new entries. These were Haylain (from Hayden Rowe and Chamberlain Streets, offered by children); Head of the Charles River, Charlesview and Hope 24 (incorporating Hop, 24/7 constancy and the grades at the school).

Carol Cavanaugh said she would be returning with a recommendation on March 7 after sending the options out to the community for residents to choose their top picks. The School Committee will vote on March 21. …

Representatives from the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) gave a presentation about their organization, delivered by chair Jen Halliday and vice chair and Jamie Wronka. They spoke about the isolation parents of students with special needs sometimes feel and how the group offers them a safe, comfortable space to share their ideas and struggles.

They outlined several past and present events and spoke about a recent book drive for the Marathon School and Elmwood School libraries to feature works that highlight special needs.

“It was a lovely experience, and all the enthusiasm was an incredible charge for us,” Wronka said.

Halliday talked about getting back on track with monthly meetings between SEPAC and school administrators and continuing an improved relationship.

She asked for the increased participation of the School Committee in helping to get timely responses to data requests and consultant reports and asked that SEPAC receive a preview of the SPED budget before it goes out at a public meeting.

Getting that information would let SEPAC “reach out to support a positive reception” of the budget, Halliday said.

Nickerson suggested SEPAC get involved in the fall, attending the earlier meetings when various department heads appear with their requests. The budget is not voted on until January, she said.

“Having you there and asking questions may help provide the heads-up,” Nickerson said.

Nancy Cavanaugh said SEPAC could have conversations during the monthly meetings (with administrators), and the School Committee really does not get previews ahead of those earliest budget presentations.

School Committee member Adam Munroe said it is “thrilling to have such an engaged group” like SEPAC. As the liaison, he has attended some of SEPAC’s coffee meetings and said it is “amazing to see the level of dedication parents have to their kids.”

The committee talked about having a backup liaison when Munroe is unavailable, with Nancy Cavanaugh saying she had the role in the past and would be open to it again. Nickerson also expressed an interest in holding the secondary liaison role.

Principals speak on new courses

High School Principal Evan Bishop outlined new courses beginning in the 2024-25 school year based on student interest and need. These include set design, play/screenwriting, unified physical education and psychology of well-being.

Bishop said there would be an English 12 course for seniors, combining “the greatest hits” of some current electives while keeping other electives like mythology, journalism and creative writing.

Middle School Principal Matt Lefebvre spoke about primarily wording changes in the program book and added that Grade 6 math curriculum is undergoing a restructuring that may result in sections where students “will go deeper” in learning math concepts.

He said added electives in physical education are backyard games, outdoor field activities, golf and invasion games.

Student patent holders, PE teacher recognized

Earlier in the meeting, the School Committee recognized HHS students Nicolette Buonora and Lauren Strechay, inventors of the Battery Swap, whoich recently received a patent.

The students attended with teacher Doug Scott to talk about a battery system for flashlights that allows them to change power sources instantly.

They thanked the Police Department and Fire Department for their cooperation and input during the process that began in fall 2020.

Scott noted the students started the project in class, eventually qualified for the nationals at Invention Convention two years ago and “pursued this where most would not.”

Nickerson noted that not only is it rare for young people to get a patent but for adults as well.

Fargiano encouraged the students to put the device “on the market,” as it solves a recognized problem, and there is a need for it. …

During her superintendent’s report, Carol Cavanaugh congratulated HMS physical education teacher Kristen Santos for being named 2024 Middle School PE Teacher of the Year by the Massachusetts Association for Health, PE, Recreation and Dance.

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