WILMINGTON — Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand opened the discussion at last week’s school committee meeting on the preliminary report of Wildwood’s third-party study seeking short-term solutions to move students and programming to the Wildwood school until the separate MSBA process is completed.
He began with an overview of Wildwood’s last building committee meeting, where the third party shared findings and narrowed the city’s options for arrangements down to eight. He shared that the committee was shocked by the cost estimates provided and quickly turned to the option of renovating the current Wildwood School.
This committee would meet later in October before providing a final recommendation to the school committee at, hopefully, one of their November meetings on the 9th or 16th.
School board member Stephen Turner was the first to share his frustration with the backlash over option cost estimates. He said the committee’s intention was to spend as little money as possible, disregarding the needs of the city’s children. Even if they chose to renovate the Wildwood, he insisted that the modular classrooms would be significantly better environments and the cost of renovating the building would be higher in the long run.
He also suggested that those classrooms could be repurposed when they begin to rebuild the city’s other aging elementary schools.
MJ Byrnes said renovating the Wildwood would be a waste of money. Its priorities with options would be those with the most suitable environments for students and staff and the least disruption for families. She also said she didn’t want to create any school consolidations that would have to be canceled later.
Jay Samaha shared a similar sentiment that the rating consolidations performed should be sustainable. He asked if each option would present a reasonably appropriate classroom for the age groups involved. Brand replied that the Wildwood could not promise that, as there were different versions of what would need to be done from a renovation perspective.
David Ragsdale also added that they will not be creating new spaces, only replacing weathered utilities and other things of that nature. He reiterated that the chosen option should provide sufficient space for staff and students for 5-7 years.
Melissa Plowman mentioned some of the suggestions made at the Wildwood building committee meeting to cut costs, such as forgoing the new sprinkler system.
“I have a hard time considering options that cut corners like that,” she said.
She wanted to see the committee consider the fragility of Wildwood’s students and the equity issues created by scattering them across the city now as they weighed the remaining options. She asked Brand to seek feedback from Wildwood staff.
Plowman also said she considers this cost part of the cost of the new building and not an additional cost. She suggested that the MSBA partnership might allay concerns so they can consider better options than the cheapest.
Turner pointed out that the city had not done necessary maintenance on the Wildwood School for several years, believing it would soon be demolished, which saved the city some money over time.
President Dr. Jenn Bryson wondered how Brand would receive feedback from Wildwood teachers and administration. Brand mentioned that he had met with the teachers and administrator of Wildwood earlier in the day. He also assured the committee that the MSBA process is moving forward with school consolidation in mind.
Finally, Plowman asked how long the options would take to come together, as that could influence the committee’s decision. Brand confirmed a schedule ending in 2024. In the meantime, he said the district will assess resources needed as Wildwood students and programs remain spread across three buildings for the next school year.
However, he suggested there would be room for preparation ahead of a city assembly vote, which would move the timetable up to half a school year.