School Board Reverses Decision on ‘Flex Rooms’

January 29, 2016



by Barbara O’Brien

Windham School Board members continue to haggle over some of the details of the proposed construction project at Golden Brook School; a proposal set to go to voters on March 5.  As the clock ticks down and the architects and engineers scramble, certain aspects of the concept remain in a state of flux.  One of those issues was settled, reversed, in fact, at a meeting on Jan. 26.

The previous week, on Jan. 19, when only four members of the school board were in attendance, a motion to include two “flex rooms” in the proposed addition to Golden Brook, had failed on a 2 to 2 tie.  The concept behind the flex rooms was to provide some growing room should student enrollment increase, without having to increase class sizes.  Although recommended for inclusion by members of the building and grounds committee by a vote of 4 to 3, School Board Chairman Ken Eyring and Vice-Chairman Tom Murray voted against the motion.  School board members Dennis Senibaldi and Daniel Popovici-Muller voted in favor.  School board member Rob Breton was out of town on business; leaving the board with a tie vote.

On Jan. 26, with the full board seated at the table, Senibaldi asked that the vote on the two flex rooms be reconsidered.  Voting to reconsider the motion from Jan. 19 were Breton, Senibaldi and Popovici-Muller.  Eyring and Murray voted against reconsideration.  Subsequently, a motion to include two flex rooms as a permanent part of the design for Golden Brook School passed by a 3 to 2 decision.  Voting in favor of including the flex rooms were Senibaldi, Breton and Popovici-Muller.  Once again, casting the negative votes were Eyring and Murray, both of whom have said they believe that student enrollment in Windham will begin declining by 2021.

Originally, the two flex rooms had been presented by the architects as an add-on alternative, not as an integrated part of the proposed construction plan.  The estimated cost of adding the two additional classrooms, one which will be on the first floor of the school, the other above it on the second floor is about $400,000.

Senibaldi and Popovici-Muller both said they felt adding some growing room was the smart thing to do.  “I don’t see it ever happening that there is too much space at Golden Brook and we don’t need these rooms,” Breton said.

In other business, Business Administrator Adam Steel said that Facilities Director John Pratte had received one quote for a one-year lease of a 10-room portable building to be used at Golden Brook during construction, should the proposed project pass muster with voters.  According to Pratte, the lease would be $12,000 per month for a used modular building, plus $320,400 for delivery and installation, plus $35,000 for connecting the portables to utilities and another $90,000 to tear it down and remove it from the premises at the end of the lease period.  The total estimated cost based on the single quote would be in the neighborhood of $600,000.  The cost of leasing portable classrooms is included in the overall budget for the construction project.  It is not anticipated that any portable classrooms will be needed during the Windham Middle School phase of the renovation project.

The construction project will be reviewed in more depth during the upcoming school district deliberative session on Friday, Feb, 5, beginning at 7 p.m. at Windham High School.  It is anticipated that a revised and, most likely, lower cost estimate will be discussed at that time.  The bond amount is currently estimated at a maximum of $38,950,000.