Emotions ran high at the Rochester School Committee meeting on Thursday over the inability to use a large back field for recess at Rochester Memorial Elementary School.
“How long do we have to wait to use the field…our priority is to provide physical activity along with education for our students,” asked Sharon Hartley, a Committee Member. “It’s not appropriate for a renovation…it’s not the norm and it isn’t fair that the grounds are not ready after two years.”
Other members also expressed frustration when Facilities Director Gene Jones explained that the field would not be available to students until December of 2013 due to the warranty issues in the contract for the renovation project. The fields, grounds and trees are the final piece of the renovation project.
At issue are warranty items that have not been settled with Mountain View, the sub-contractor handling that portion of the contract. Gilbane Builders was the manager of the project and used Mountain View for the grounds handling portion of the project.
Jones explained that he was on top of the situation and has spent many hours inspecting the fields, trees and ground work around the school.
“The back field is patches of sand, blotches of non-grass…we have to give Mountain View the opportunity to fix it…that’s in the contract,” said Jones.
“Is there a termination clause in the contract, so we can withhold payment and work on it ourselves?” asked Member Tina Rood.
Jones told the board that no payment would be made until the fields and grounds were up to the specifications required in the contract.
“I’ve met with the Board of Selectmen and we discussed options, such as using water cannons to water the field after seeding…we hired an arborist to inspect the trees…the town spent good money on this project and we need to be sure we are getting what we agreed to,” said Jones.
Board members told Jones that they understood that he was the ‘messenger’ and appreciated his work in keeping on top of the project. Superintendent Doug White asked the committee to be patient and that he would work with Jones and the contractor to assure that everything that could be done to ready the field in the spring would be done.
A lively discussion followed regarding the lack of an after school program this past September through December. The program, organized and run by the PTO and teacher volunteers and a paid organizer, was not offered this past half school year.
“As a committee, we’re looking to see what, if any changes are needed,” said Hartley.
Superintendent White explained that after school programs in Marion and Mattapoisett are run by the town recreation committees, while Rochester relies on the PTO.
“It’s good to look at our programs and clarify the principal’s role, the PTO’s role and what is the best way to run it,” said Rood.
An after school program is currently in place for the January through June portion of the school year.
The committee agreed to form a new committee to look into how the program is organized and how to support it so that it continues to be available to children in the future.
Danni Kleiman was recognized at the meeting for being an outstanding teacher with ‘curriculum courage’ for her work with students in planning a Shakespearian play each year as an after school program.
“Ms. Kleiman is a wonderful teacher, supporter and friend to all,” said Elise Frangos, Curriculum Director.
In other business, White told the committee that he met with the police chiefs of Mattapoisett, Rochester and Marion in the wake of the Newtown, CT tragedy.
“As a result, our policy committee will be looking at what we should be communicating to students and parents and includes drills that we will be conducting on a more regular basis,” said White.
White added that the district is looking closely at a systematic way of guarding entry to all school buildings with additional security measures.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry