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Citizens for Needham Schools (CNS) is dedicated to advocating for strong public schools, educating the public on issues pertaining to school department funding and capital projects, and supporting the School Administration and the School Committee in their efforts to provide quality education for Needham’s students.
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FY 2016 School Budget First Look & Other School News


Did you ever wonder how the school budget process works? Since August, school administrators have been working on the budget and meeting with principals and department heads to understand their needs. They have also been working with Town departments to understand how school finances fit within the larger context of Needham's resources. In early December each year, the Needham community is given a first look at next year's proposed school operating budget. 

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12/17/2014: In This Issue

First Look: FY 2016 School Budget Request
Facilities Master Plan
School Rebuilding Projects
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Needham residents will have an opportunity to learn more about next year's proposed school budget and provide comments at a Public Hearing on January 20th at 7:00pm in the Broadmeadow Performance Center. 

As the year draws to a close, CNS thanks all of the Needham Public Schools teachers, staff and administrators who work with our students each day. Your commitment to the children of Needham is greatly appreciated!

 
First Look: FY 2016 School Budget Request
 

On December 2nd, Superintendent Gutekanst presented his FY16 operating budget request to the School Committee (for the school year starting in July 2015). This request calls for an operating budget of $61.07 million, a 5.37% increase ($3.1 million) over this year's budget. A presentation on the Superintendent's Budget Request is available here.

A key driver in next year's budget is rising special education costs. Over $1 million in new special education costs have arisen since July when the current budget year began. These costs stem from an increased number of Needham children requiring special education services, and children with more severe and complex needs that necessitate specialized programs, therapies or out of district placements. These unanticipated expenses have a large impact on next year's budget request, and they are also putting pressure on this year's school budget. 

A substantial portion of the increase being proposed for next year, $2.8 million, is directed toward providing the same level of services as are provided this year (e.g, similar class sizes, programs & services; contractual increases; replacement materials). It's important to note that this amount approaches, but does not meet, level service requests. The remaining $340,000 is for program improvements. 

Next year's budget request includes the addition of 13.05 full time positions. These positions are being added to meet growing enrollment at the secondary level and special education needs at all levels.

Also included in next year's proposed budget are the reallocation and reduction of some existing resources. For example, elementary staff are being reallocated to the secondary level, special education staff are being moved among existing programs and certain items such as professional development are being reduced.

The budget proposal will continue to be refined over the coming weeks in conjunction with other Town departments. As mentioned above, the Needham community is encouraged to attend the School Committee's Public Budget Hearing on January 20th to learn more and provide comments on next year's school budget. You may also submit written comments at any time to schoolcommittee@needham.k12.ma.us.

 
 Town Wide Facilities Master Plan
 

Over the last year, the Permanent Public Building Committee (PPBC) and the Facility Working Group have been engaged in a study of the current and future needs of Needham's capital infrastructure. At a public meeting in November the PPBC presented some of the findings from this town-wide study to the community. A copy of the presentation from this meeting is available here.  

Needham's Facilities Master Plan examines projects for Police & Fire, Department of Public Works and Parks & Recreation as well as the schools. Among the many capital needs part of this study, several school projects of varying sizes were identified, including Hillside and Mitchell Elementary Schools, Pollard Middle School, Needham High School and the Emery Grover Building (school administration).

All of the proposed capital projects for either School or other Town needs are highly interconnected, and will have a substantial impact on Needham taxpayers. We encourage you to learn more about this study and the future capital projects planned for our Town. 

 
 School Rebuilding Projects
 

As mentioned above, there are several school building projects on the horizon for Needham. Starting with this issue, CNS will maintain this topic as a recurring section of our newsletter and endeavor to keep readers up to date on the status of current and future projects.

Needham High School Needham High School was constructed for a student population of 1,450 students. However, the current year's enrollment is 1,614 students, and enrollment is expected to continue climbing and to remain over 1,700 students for the foreseeable future. This has put tremendous pressure on classroom and common spaces, notably the cafeteria.  In an effort to begin addressing space constraints at Needham High, October's Special Town Meeting approved $200,000 to reconfigure two large classrooms at NHS into four smaller classrooms for next year. In December, the Finance Committee authorized $50,000 for a design study of ways to create additional classroom, cafeteria and other spaces at Needham High. The School Committee hopes to work with other Town Departments to bring a warrant article before Town Meeting later this year for a larger construction project at Needham High School to address anticipated space needs.

Elementary School Projects

Two elementary school projects are planned for the next decade - Hillside and Mitchell. The Hillside project is being taken up first as this building was deemed to be in the poorest physical condition by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). 

Current sites being considered for the Hillside project are as follows:

  • Current Hillside location
  • New elementary school at DeFazio Park
  • New 6th grade School at DeFazio Park with High Rock School becoming an elementary school 

Needham is currently partnering with the MSBA on the Hillside project and a feasibility study is expected to begin early in the new year.

Following the Hillside Project, needs at the Mitchell School will then be addressed. These two elementary school projects are closely related, and decisions made about how to rebuild the Hillside School will have a direct impact on other elementary schools in terms of school size, the need for redistricting and transportation. Additional information about plans to rebuild Hillside and Mitchell are available here

 
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