ORLEANS — Opportunity is knocking for the Nauset Public Schools, even if some wish the region could take more time to get ready for its big date with town meeting voters.
On Feb. 27, the Nauset Regional School Committee got an update on discussions between school and town administrators on scheduling a vote to approve a feasibility study and schematic design preparation for a high school renovation/expansion project. It's been included in the Massachusetts School Building Authority's list for partial state reimbursement. Given that many towns are close to locking up their spring meeting warrants, school staff had thought a vote in the fall was more likely, but they were surprised to learn Orleans and Brewster had already slotted the vote in for this spring.
That news set off a lively discussion at the committee's meeting in Brewster Town Hall, with some members saying spring was too soon to produce a thoughtful analysis that could hold up to questions and others warning that a fall town meeting vote would compete with the 12-town balloting for Cape Cod Regional Technical High School's new building.
The project has been talked about for several years, and the region's capital plan projection has carried a number dedicated to the study. The MSBA, which will reimburse the towns for a little more than one-third of the study's cost, accepted the project Feb. 15.
Nauset Superintendent Tim Conrad noted the groundwork that has been laid, including a site visit to the high school by MSBA staff and a preliminary listing of education programming and maintenance issues that could be addressed through a building renovation and expansion program.
Committee member James O'Leary of Brewster encouraged staff to prepare a presentation for the March 9 meeting (at 6 p.m. in Brewster Town Hall) so the committee can make a decision. “It's not the first time a feasibility study has been costed out,” he said.
Also on Monday, the committee voted to approve a budget for the two regional schools of $22,040,800, a 2.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year and in keeping with towns' mandates to cap increases at 2.5 percent.
In his presentation, Conrad noted pending increases in special education, health insurance, and textbook costs as well as the need to pay for high school reaccreditation. He said six teacher retirements will represent a significant decrease. Member Ed Lewis of Brewster praised Conrad for his “transparency” regarding the retirements.
Enrollment in grades six to eight is fairly steady, projected for 538 in the coming fiscal year. High school enrollment dipped to 945 this year from FY16's 981, and is expected to rise to 949 next fiscal year. Noting that the system's application to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is pending for 2018, Conrad said there are more than 300 children on the Cape who cannot get into existing IB programs.
Maintaining the quality of educational programs and the condition of the facilities are important goals, the superintendent said, but a big help in keeping the budget on track is that “principals are paying attention in their buildings” to the use of supplies. “They're not giving people an opportunity on the first day of school to get everything they need for the year.”