EAST LONGMEADOW — The School Committee discussed updates to the East Longmeadow High School Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) process and school district budget during their May 9 meeting.
Superintendent Gordon Smith said designer Jones Whitsett Architects, in partnership with SMMA, finalized their contract with the school district a week before the meeting. “Now they’re fully on board, which is fantastic. Now they can get to work,” Smith said.
Smith said the design entities held an introductory meeting with high school management. The superintendent explained that the companies will work in May and June to schedule visitation sessions with staff, students and community members to assess feedback.
Smith envisions the high school continuing its community-building role, with the senior center and parks and recreation department using the current space for activities. He stressed the importance of involving both operations in building a “community vision” for the modernized high school.
The superintendent also indicated that the district is developing a web page where updates on the MSBA process will be available. “It’s a place where people can go anytime and see what’s going on,” Smith said.
As the city and school district undergo budget review, Smith, School Board Chair Sarah Truoiolo and School Board Vice Chair William Fonseca met with the Financial Oversight Committee on April 28. coronavirus pandemic standards over the next two fiscal years.
During the meeting, the trio also highlighted the importance for the Financial Oversight Committee to support newly identified needs. “I think the answers we provided helped give the Financial Oversight Committee a much better idea of what we’re trying to accomplish and where we’re trying to go,” Smith said.
After expressing grievances at the previous meeting, school committee member Gregory Thompson reiterated his criticisms of the process. “I think the way we’re funding this is a disaster…If we don’t fund capital projects through the operating budget, we’ll be looking at several cuts next year,” Thompson said.
Thompson argued that the current budget plan does not take into account all the increases. “I think the process is broken…$1.1 million is a cliff and it won’t be there next year,” Thompson said. The school committee member said it was unfair for an unelected committee to make the final decisions on the school district’s budget.
Truoiolo argued that the school committee worked “in collaboration” with the financial monitoring committee. Smith agreed, sharing that the meeting between the two sides was “well received”.
The school committee will meet again on May 23.