November 18, 2002 Meeting of the Guilford Board of Finance

Handout by Bill Quirk ( wgquirk@wgquirk.com)

Is Adams Currently Overcrowded?

At the October 28th Public hearing, Mrs. Truex presented a power point presentation about the proposed middle school building project. Mrs. Truex didn't mention overcrowding when interviewed for a November 8th New Haven Register article (which also appeared in the November 13th issue of the Shore Line Times).  She did say that:
  1. "One of the issues facing Adams is there are no standard-size classrooms; some are small, others huge."      [underline emphasis added]
  2. "To rectify the situation would require a complete interior renovation to state specifications, which together with the additions at Baldwin priced out to $70.534 million."   [underline emphasis added]
I emailed Mrs. Truex, asking if the quotes were accurate, and, if so would she please elaborate.   She didn't respond.

I next called the Connecticut State Department of Education and was referred to Craig A. Smith of the School Facilities Unit.   In a November 13 phone conversation he said:

  1. He didn't know what Mrs. Truex meant by "standard-size classrooms"
  2. There's only one requirement for classroom size.  It's found in the Connecticut State Fire Safety Code (NFPA 101 - 1997).  Section 11-1.7 of this code discusses occupant load for classrooms and states that there should be a minimum of  20 net square feet per person.   Thus, for a class size of 24 students, with one teacher, the classroom size should be at least 500 square feet.
According to the Adams floor plan, there are 42 classrooms, with 30 classrooms in the 616 to 957 square foot range.    If we assume a class size of 24, these 30 classrooms alone can accommodate 720 students, with average classroom size (both median and mean) of approximately 756 square feet.   That's 256 square feet more than required by the State of Connecticut, and 12 classrooms aren't even used.

Approximately 635 students are currently enrolled at Adams.

Will Adams be Overcrowded in the Future?

Summary: Based on an examination of Guilford BOE meeting minutes, going back to October, 1999, the worst case projection publicly discussed is approximately 660 students for Adams through the year 2009.

Does this prove that we don't need more space for grades 7 and 8?

No, but it does suggest that:

  1. We need an objective assessment of currently available space.
  2. We should explore all options for more efficient space utilization.
  3. We need enrollment projection data from qualified experts.

If Construction is Needed, What About the Current Proposal?

Twelve years ago our elementary schools included grade 5, and Adams and Baldwin were true middle schools, both covering grades 6 through 8.

The current proposal will reinforce the current grade span  model, with Baldwin, technically an elementary school,  for grades 5 and 6, and Adams for grades 7 and 8.

School Administrator is the journal of the American Association of School Administrators.  The March 2002 issue was devoted to issues related to grade span configurations.

As discussed there, current research indicates that for both academic achievement and social adjustment:

  1. It's best to delay the first school building transition.
  2. It's best to minimize the number of building transitions
  3. It's best to minimize grade density (the number of students in a specific grade in a specific building).
Why is it important to delay the first school building transition?
  1. To keep the student close to home where "everyone knows your name."  In particular, the school principal knows the student  and the family, beginning with the first day of school.
  2. To maximize parent participation.
  3. There is an increased probability of siblings in the same building.
  4. There is an increase in teacher to teacher accountability.
  5. Most importantly to delay the stress of the first building transition.
Does this prove that we should return to the old Guilford grade span model?

No, but it does suggest that we should give more consideration to alternative grade span models before we reinforce our current unconventional grade span model.

What About the Total Cost of This Proposal?

The current announced cost is approximately 55 million dollars, with an expected reimbursement of about 11 million from the State to arrive at approximately 44 million dollars to be paid for by Guilford Taxpayers.

The total cost for Guilford taxpayers should include:

  1. A more realistic estimate of reimbursement from the State of Connecticut.  Let's hear the details of reimbursement percentages.   What happened to the 33.57% rate mentioned September 23rd?
  2. Expenses to maintain and reconfigure the current Adams building.
  3. Expenses to access the Baldwin site from route 77, with the required bridging of the West River.
  4. Interest for the 20 year bond.

Two aspects of the proposal deserve special scrutiny:

  1. The 10.2 million dollars in soft costs for the new Adams building
  2. Current plans for the proposed new Adams building now call for 158,000 square feet of space.

Copyright 2002 William G. Quirk, Ph.D.
The reader is invited to print and/or copy this paper.