Memorial Stadium, locker rooms, and tech top proposed 2020 school improvements

Dec 11, 2018

Memorial Stadium renovations could top the list of the school department’s big-ticket requests next year.

The department’s current preliminary draft of its capital improvement plan, which outlines funding requests for major projects, includes a request to advance Phase 2 of a comprehensive renovation of the stadium. School Business Administrator Jim Kiely presented the draft at the Dec. 10 School Committee meeting.

The comprehensive renovation of Memorial Stadium has been proposed in phases. Last year, Town Meeting members approved $1.1 million for the initial phase, which will replace the grassy field with artificial turf, and add new LED lighting.

This request, for $1.9 million, would fund phase 2 of the project, which would include renovations of the home bleachers, bathroom, concession stand, entryways, walkways, handicap improvements, fencing, and press box.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Kiely said. “Our hope is to continue to move this project forward and continue what we’re working on with the field and the lights and move forward with [phase 2].”

The second largest item on the list is $225,000 to renovate bathrooms and locker rooms at the high school.

“There’s just a lot of wear and tear, and there’s a lot of kids that go through there on a regular basis,” Kiely said.

Dartmouth’s award-winning band program could also benefit. The district is proposing $42,000 to replace music instruments. Kiely said he worked closely with Band Director Bill Kingsland to develop a list of instruments in need of replacement, including vibraphones and marimbas.

One item that did not make it on this year’s list is what to do about Dartmouth’s aging school buildings. School Committee member Shannon Jenkins brought up the results of the district’s facilities study, which were completed last year but have not been discussed heavily.

The study found many of Dartmouth’s school buildings are over capacity compared to current school building standards, and are in need of very expensive replacement or renovations. Price tags for options consultants recommended ranged from $54 million to $86 million.

“We do need to have that conversation about what we’re going to do about these schools,” Jenkins said. “While our maintenance department and Mr. Kiely does a great job at keeping these schools running, at some point it's not going to be enough.”

Member Chris Oliver said he felt the committee should not lose sight of the issue, and recommended putting at the very least a note on the capital improvement plan addressing the fact that it is still something that needs to be dealt with.

The capital improvement plan presented at the meeting is currently in draft form, and will be tweaked in the coming months before being presented for voter approval at the spring and fall Town Meetings.