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12 schools need major renovations; State funding to be sought.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - The City Council Education Committee yesterday endorsed a plan identifying 12 public school buildings in need of major repairs or complete replacement, in the hope of eventually getting state funding for those projects.

The Massachusetts School Building Assistance Authority, which funds school building projects, requires cities and towns to submit a statement of interest that prioritizes school projects. Only those projects that meet the strict criteria and qualification standards established by the school building authority are eligible for consideration.

Councilor-at-Large Kathleen M. Toomey, chairwoman of the three-member committee, said the statement of interest does not obligate the city to any one project, but serves as a way for the city to provide the state with information about the condition and needs of certain school buildings.

She said the changes that have been made in awarding state funding for public school projects will create a more fair and equitable system for all school districts. She said the changes also encourage more building renovation and rehabilitation work, as opposed to building new schools.

"It's important for us to let the state know about the condition of some of our school buildings and what needs to be done to make them better places of learning," Ms. Toomey said. "This is a preliminary step we need to take if we want to be considered for state funding. And just because a school is on our list does not mean it's going to happen next year, or even in the next five years, for that matter."

She added that the 12 schools that have been recommended for consideration were ones that met all the regulations established by the school building authority. The city has until July 31 to submit its statement of interest.

Ms. Toomey said more than 200 school districts have already filed their statements with the state.

The school projects recommended by School Department officials are:

- Burncoat High (renovation) - The library/media center is inadequate. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission has had the school on "warning status" since 1999 because of that, and it wants school officials to develop a plan and timetable to address that issue. In addition, the school's auditorium has not been upgraded since the school was built in 1964, and every system is in need of major overhaul, including lighting, sound, heating, ventilation and seating areas.

- Thorndyke Road (renovation) - The school does not have a gymnasium for physical education classes. It also lacks a cafetorium and, as a result, the all-purpose room is where students have to eat, thus restricting that space for other uses.

- Chandler Magnet (renovation) - The size of the library is inadequate. Also, the heating and ventilation system needs to be replaced and modernized, as well as all of the building's windows.

- May Street (renovation) - Needs a new heating system; the current one goes back to 1927, when the school was built. The all-purpose room is insufficient in size, negatively affecting the music and arts programs. The cafeteria, kitchen and nurse's office areas are also inadequate in size.

- Midland Street (renovation) - Built in 1896, it needs complete replacement of its heating and ventilation systems. It does not have a computer lab, a gym, an all-purpose room or a cafeteria.

- Nelson Place (replacement) - Built in 1927, the school's brick facade is structurally failing. Physical constraints in the building prevent it from implementing programs at a satisfactory level in the technology, music and art rooms.

- Grafton Street (replacement) - The city's oldest school building, built in 1879, all its systems are antiquated and unreliable. Because of the age of the structure, it cannot offer contemporary amenities, such as cable access for the media lab, and it does not have a gymnasium.

- Union Hill (renovation) - Several programs and activities cannot take place because of physical constraints. The school lacks a state-of-the-art computer room, and upgrades are needed to the library and gym.

- Worcester East Middle (renovation) - Needs a new boiler, and the three large original coal-fired boilers need to be removed. The size of the gym, media center, science labs and cafeteria are all inadequate to support the school's population.

- Goddard School of Science and Technology (renovation) - The school has had to decrease the class sizes in the Technology Lab because of inadequate electrical services and ventilation. Lavatory facilities are antiquated and sporadic throughout the building. The cafeteria is small, and there is no outdoor play area for children.

- South High Community (renovation) - The original all-electric heating system needs to be replaced with a gas-fired heating and cooling system. South's open-classroom environment is not conducive to learning, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission wants walls erected within the school so classes are truly separated from one another.

- Vernon Hill (renovation) - The school needs complete replacement of its original heating system and a science lab. The computer lab cannot accommodate classes of more than 20 students, and the building does not have adequate electrical distribution, computer and data network services to support an expanded computer lab.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 3, 2007
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