As the Watertown Public Schools move full speed ahead on rebuilding or renovating the town’s schools, school officials must soon make some decisions which would impact the designs of both the elementary schools and Watertown High School.
There are three key questions that must be answered in the next month, or so, in order for schematic designs of the school projects to continue, School Committee Chairman John Portz said at Monday’s School Committee meeting. A meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.
The first question, Portz said, is whether the Lowell Elementary School site off Orchard Street should be considered as possible site for a new Watertown High School building.
Portz noted that no decision has been made about whether to renovate the current high school or to build a new school, but if the Lowell property is to be considered that must be determined now.
“Our architects, Ai3, is prepared to speak about this and address the issue,” Portz said. “This is not decision on where WHS goes. The question is, is the Lowell property a viable option? If it is, we need to adjust the elementary projects accordingly.”
The second question is where the Watertown Schools will house its PreK and preschool programs.
Currently, each elementary school has its own PreK program, while the district’s preschool program is located mostly at Hosmer Elementary School with a couple classrooms at the former Phillips School. Other districts have built a central location to house both of these programs in what is sometimes called an early childhood learning center.
“We need to know how it will be done (in Watertown),” Portz said.
Finally, the School Committee will be looking at what the enrollment will be at the three elementary schools, and how many students each school will house, Portz said.
In the current configuration Hosmer School is significantly larger than the other schools, and Cunniff School is smaller than the Lowell.
“Do we do it the same as now, or do we make some adjustments?” Portz said.
Portz said he does not anticipate major redistricting of the elementary school enrollment areas, but there may be moves to make Hosmer smaller and increase the number of students at the other two schools.
The Jan. 29 meeting will include the full School Committee, but will be a meeting of the whole. This means the meeting will have an informal format where attendees will be invited to give their input, Portz said.