School Committee approves $15 million five-year capital plan
On Jan. 11 the School Committee unanimously approved a $15 million capital improvement plan for infrastructure upgrades at the Dartmouth Public School district over the next five fiscal years.
The full five-year plan includes some big-ticket items like $4.5 million for a new roof for the high school and $2.5 million for new windows at Potter and DeMello Schools, as well as restoration or replacement of doors, windows, flooring, and fields, and a $350,000 tech infrastructure upgrade.
School Business Administrator Jim Kiely discussed the plan with committee members at the meeting, noting that the town has been “very helpful” in funding pandemic-related improvements and has already allocated “a significant amount” of CARES Act money to school buildings.
In fiscal year 2022 the district plans on spending around $1.8 million, $300,000 of which will go towards HVAC upgrades.
More than $200,000 will be spent on each of three different projects: a flooring replacement project that Kiely said has been ongoing for around a decade, new AV and lighting systems for the high school auditorium, and replacing grease traps in the schools’ kitchens.
Committee members noted that a $200,000 annual cost for replacing tech hardware is likely to increase in the near future with all of the extra tech in daily use during the pandemic.
Kiely also noted that $150,000 for furniture will be spent on fold-out cafeteria tables in the elementary schools that don’t function well and are difficult to repair.
“Our maintenance guys can fix anything and they can’t fix these real well,” Kiely said, adding that the rest of the budget may be used to replace unused furniture that has been sitting in containers all year due to Covid.
“[The containers are] meant to be watertight — I hope they are,” he said.
School Committee Vice Chair Shannon Jenkins asked about the district’s long-term plans, noting that state reimbursement for projects to replace infrastructure on aging buildings might come with a commitment to continue to use them.
“Should we spend 2.5 million to replace windows if we’re not keeping our schools?” she asked. “They’re not gonna last forever. We can’t continue to spend millions and millions of dollars...There’s only so much blood you can get from a stone.”
Meanwhile, Kiely told committee members that a $3.6 million project to renovate grandstands and other infrastructure at the Memorial Stadium that was approved at Fall Town Meeting in 2019 is on hold for now.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” he said. “We’ve done some good design work in anticipation of hoping to proceed at some point...[but it’s] not to be done this summer.”