Bedford Schools weighs options for upgrading aging buildings


TEMPERANCE — Having cut costs to improve the district’s financial stability, the Bedford Public Schools Board of Education now is addressing another knotty problem: What to do about the school system’s aging buildings and coming up with funding possibilities.

The board has narrowed its options to two: fix some of the buildings’ “critical needs,” as identified by its consultant, or take a more costly path “to reinvent the district,” a plan that would involve demolishing elementary school buildings and fixing and enhancing the high school and junior high.

The cost of the bare bones “Plan A” is expected to be $27.6 million, while the more ambitious “Plan B” would carry a $63 million price tag.

The board discussion took place during a special meeting called last week in response to a needs assessment received from Plante Moran CRESA LLC of Southfield, Mich.

The lengthy draft report, complete with photos and illustrations, described each building and its needs over the next 10 years. The anticipated cost to fix the buildings, including nonurgent improvements, was about $80 million, a figure that included a 2 percent to 3 percent annual inflation rate for construction costs and materials.

Board members have just started to deliberate but are leaning toward Plan B, as is Superintendent Mark Kleinhans, who believes the district and its community are a premium brand that should be reflected in its school buildings’ condition.

The district, Mr. Kleinhans said, is known for superior academic performance and co-curricular programs, so having high-quality facilities is only appropriate. He also noted that new and upgraded buildings, with modern lighting and mechanical systems, would be significantly more efficient to operate and many board members agreed.

“But it will be tricky to sell it” to taxpayers, member Joe Gore said.

Douglas Road and Jackman Road elementary schools alone require more than $4 million each to fix critical needs, such as substandard windows and security control.

Board member Wayne Meehean said he believed putting millions of dollars into the two old buildings would be foolish. “It’s like building a house,” he said. “If you have a choice between a brand new house or a 50-year-old house, which one are you going to take?”

Under Plan B, Douglas Road and Jackman Road schools would be razed, along with the former Temperance Road Elementary School, which was closed in June, and a new $15 million elementary school would be built. The former Smith Road Elementary, which was closed as a school building in 2011, would get $7 million worth of improvements, including six additional classrooms, and return to service. Monroe Road Elementary would have $1 million of critical needs addressed, including a reconfigured main entrance for better security.

The junior high and high schools would have their critical needs fixed and deferred maintenance done at a cost of $11 million and $23.13 million, respectively.

Plan B, if adopted by the board, could be financed by an additional 2.35-mill levy taxpayers would have to approve that would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $235 annually. Plan B also would require voters to renew a 1.83-mill levy collected to service Monroe Road Elementary’s construction debt, scheduled to be retired next year.

Plan A could be promoted as a course of action requiring “no new taxes,” but would depend on renewal of that about-to-expire 1.83 mills early next year.