Superintendent James F. Scully.
In the next few weeks, school officials expect to reveal plans for a project to address space and structural issues at the Albert B. Consentino School on Washington Street.
Superintendent James F. Scully said a team from Shawmut Design & Construction, which built the new Hunking School, recommended that the city focus on Consentino to address crowding issues that are especially severe in the Washington Street area, including the Tilton, J.G. Whittier and Consentino schools.
“There is overcrowding in the Tilton-Consentino neighborhood. That’s been an ongoing issue. That’s the Polaroid picture today,” he said,
Scully said the city is looking at the scope of work needed at Consentino and will have a proposal ready long before the April 7 deadline to submit a request for funding from the state School Building Authority.
But the timeline from proposal to funding to construction can be years long, so school officials will be forced to find ways to ease crowding while they develop and advocate a Consentino construction plan.
One method to equalize middle-grade student numbers is to create theme schools in each of the city’s middle schools, Scully suggested.
For example, the new Hunking School in Bradford is being developed as a technology school, and the Nettle Middle School will focus on languages.
Roughly two classrooms’ worth of students with an affinity for technology will move out of Consentino next year and into Hunking. That will eliminate 60 students, Scully said. About 100 middle school students, citywide, who have an aptitude in languages, will move to the Nettle School.
The superintendent warned that simply moving students from one school to the other is not a magical way of creating open space where there is none.
“The only empty classroom in the entire city is at Silver Hill,” Scully said, referring to the charter school located on Washington Street behind Consentino School.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini cautioned against “building a church for Easter Sunday,” saying the city’s school population is down about 800 students from a decade ago, though the numbers have rebounded somewhat over the past four years.
Scully said every inch of space is being used in every school, including former storage closets that have been retrofitted for use as small-group instruction rooms.