By Prudence Brighton
Selectmen last week gave the go-ahead to a new approach in seeking state funding for needed improvements to three elementary schools.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority has previously turned down the town's proposal to participate in the eligibility period for school projects. The 270-day eligibility period allows the MSBA to asses a school district's commitment to a capital project before proceeding to later phases.
Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone appeared before selectmen with three separate statements of interest -- one each for the Campbell, Brookside and Englesby schools -- to submit to the MSBA.
Selectmen approved each proposal unanimously.
During a recent School Committee meeting, Stone said the MSBA evaluated more than 50 proposals in the last funding cycle.
At the time, Stone said, "We just haven't popped to the top yet."
The agency's decisions were "solely base on quantifiable" criteria, and the needs of other districts were seen as more critical, the superintendent said.
For the next cycle, Stone recommended that the town submit separate statements of interest. Two SOIs would cover the Brookside and Englesby Elementary schools under the MSBA's Accelerated Repair Program. This program covers replacing windows, roofs and boilers in otherwise structurally sound buildings.
The roofs of those two schools "are beyond their usable life," Stone said.
The town is submitting a separate SOI for the Campbell School under the MSBA's Core Program. This program covers extensive repairs, renovations, school additions and new school construction.
Stone thanked Town Manager Jim Duggan and members of the Community Preservation Committee for their support. In addition to the school-funding proposal, Duggan and the superintendent successfully sought $4.4 million in funding from the CPC for the Dracut High School athletic fields.