Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • 1. Need for the Driscoll Project and Timeline


    2. Play Space and Open Space


    3. Traffic and Parking


    4. Construction Plans


    5. Driscoll Project as part of a comprehensive townwide approach


    6. Other Questions


    1. Need for the Driscoll Project and Timeline


    Why does Driscoll need renovation and expansion?

    Since 2005, Brookline has experienced historic enrollment growth in its public schools. The K-8 elementary schools have grown by 40% going from 3,904 students in 2006 to 5,482 students in 2017. In particular, some schools have more than doubled their student population in the past ten years. In that time, Driscoll has had the highest growth rate in the district, growing by 67% or 247 students.

    Driscoll has “added” classroom space by carving up rooms, converting offices and storage spaces, and adding classrooms in the basement. Teaching is conducted in hallways, former closets, and corners of the cafeteria. Due to this “expand-in-place” strategy, more than 30 classrooms currently do not meet Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) building guidelines, with 18 classrooms exceeding class size targets at PSB.  In addition, the building is inadequate in the following ways:

    • Classrooms
      • Largest middle school class sizes in the district, in some of the smallest size middle school classrooms in the district
      • Overall, more than 30 classrooms below MSBA standards, not including learning spaces in hallways and multiple classes in one room
    • Indoor common areas
      • Undersized cafeteria: 5 lunches starting at 10.30 and ending at 1.00 pm
      • Undersized auditorium/theater and gymnasium, and other common spaces
      • Nursing area dramatically too small, resulting in medical equipment in the main hallway and serious student privacy concerns
    • Outdoor areas
      • Outdoor play space inadequate and poorly organized
      • Field regularly not usable because of wet or muddy conditions
      • Inadequate playground space for Extended Day (can’t get licensed)
    • Operations
      • The building has never had a complete renovation in its history, and its long-overdue HVAC replacement was postponed
      • Environmentally inefficient as a result
      • Inadequate operational and custodial space (no loading dock)
      • Parts of the main building are bricked-over modulars
    • Community Space
      • Inaccessible community spaces
      • Traffic circulation and drop off concerns

    What are the primary features planned for the new school?

    Using preliminary feedback received from community members, neighbors, and Driscoll Staff and Families, the Building Committee have noted the following design criterias for the Driscoll project:

    • Appropriate sizes and numbers of classrooms and common areas that meet the Brookline preK-8 Educational Plan goals and standards are the top priority of this project.
    • Collaboration, project-based learning, and the arts must be supported by the new school building. Staff and families want to continue Driscoll’s deep and longstanding commitment to the arts. Teachers have highlighted the need for classrooms that are flexible and allow students to work with each other on in-depth and active learning.
    • Useable play space is a design priority. The Building Committee has prioritized design options that increase useable play space by decreasing the building footprint and considering a variety of parking options.
    • The building should serve as a dynamic community resource hub, one that is used and appreciated by the community, is a welcoming space that helps build community, is accessible to all, and allows all students to feel safe, welcome, and recognized
    • Student disruption during the construction process should be minimal. Since no swing space is available during the scheduled construction period, both renovation and new design options would be entail students remaining on-site during the renovation (either in the existing building or in modulars). Both renovation and new design options would also mean less open space during the construction phase. Therefore, the implications for play space and recess during construction must be understood regardless of which plan moves forward.

    What are the specifications of the new school?

    School Type

    4 classrooms per grade K - 8th Grade

    Expanded Services

    3 Brookline Early Education Program classes, Special Education (LAHB - Language & Academic Home Base), Native Language Support Program (Russian)

    Projected Number of Students

    800 (+140 from SY 2018-19)

    Total Number of Core Classrooms

    36 (+8 from SY 2018-19)

    Preliminary Staffing (including Kitchen and Custodial)

    125 (+18 from SY 2018-19)

    Preliminary Size of School

    154,260 Sq. Ft. (+56,260 from SY 2018-19)

     

    What is the Project Timeline?

    The earliest the new school would be built and open is September 2022. The current, best-case project timeline is:

    Dates

    Phase

    December 2018


    Building Committee completes Design Feasibility Phase and identifies Preferred Design;
    Town Meeting considers a vote on Schematic Design funds

    December 2018 - April 2019

    Schematic Design phase (if approved by Town Meeting on 12/13/18)

    Spring 2019

    Townwide referendum and Town Meeting vote on debt exclusion to fund construction

    June 2019 - Spring 2020

    Final design development and creation of construction documents

    Summer 2020

    Construction Phase begins

    Summer 2022

    Construction complete

    Summer 2022

    Demolition of original building

    Summer 2022 - Spring 2023

    Development of fields and playspaces


    2. Play Space and Open Space


    Will the new school building allow for more play space for student?

    Yes, the Modified Star Design recommended by the Building Committee will add 35,000 square feet of useable play space to the school property. By selecting the design that adds more open play space than any of the other design alternatives, the Building Committee fulfilled the commitment made by School Committee and Select Board members when they selected Driscoll for renovation and expansion in June 2018.

    How do the designs under consideration compare with the current amount of play space at Driscoll?

    Three of the four designs increased total useable play space even while expanding the square footage of the building by nearly 50%. The Modified Star Design that Building Committee selected increased the play space far more than the other options, increasing the square footage from 72,500 sf to 109,500 sq ft.

    To see the presentation on Open Space Evaluation, please click here.

    How will play space be affected during construction?

    The new building will be built on the existing field and play areas. During construction and until the fields and play spaces are completed, there will be limited play space available for Driscoll students. Specific details and contingencies regarding temporary play space will be worked out during the Schematic Design Phase, when the building design undergoes further refinement and a more specific site plan is produced . Most recently during the construction of the Coolidge Corner School, Lower Devotion students attended school in a converted assisted living center and successfully played for two years on a very contained blacktop area and made the occasional trip to a local park for extended recess. The Upper Devotion students were at Old Lincoln School for three years playing on a paved area on top of the school garage and also going across Route 9 to a playfield.

    When will open space plans be finalized?

    During the Schematic Design phase, landscape architecture decisions will be made. The Building Committee will create a sub-committee that mirrors the successful Parks & Recreation Commission Design Advisory Team process. This process includes decisions around outdoor features (tennis courts, picnic tables, trees, shaded areas, play equipment, fields, and so forth) and other amenities. This process includes parents, neighbors, and elected officials to assess options, hold multiple community meetings to assess priorities, and make recommendations to the Building Committee about all aspects of outdoor design.

    3. Traffic and Parking

    What is being done to understand the impact on traffic, pick up, drop off, and parking with a larger school population?  Will there be more staff parking on neighborhood streets?

    An updated and revised study of traffic in the Driscoll neighborhood began in September. An update was presented to the Driscoll School Building Committee on October 18. A preliminary read-out was presented on November 1, with the final report and analysis due in December. This report and its recommendations will be shared with Town Meeting members prior to December 13. The School Department also presented a preliminary staff parking plan at the Transportation Board Meeting on September 17.

    Currently there are 52 permits for staff to park on neighboring streets and 53 parking spots on site. There will be approximately 20 more staff members in the new Driscoll School than there are now. The Town is also implementing a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to incentivize staff to use public transportation; this is expected to decrease car usage somewhat. The Driscoll Building Committee will weigh the cost of underground parking spots and the desire for open/play space with the need for parking and the impact on the surrounding neighborhood before making a final recommendation on the specific details of a staff parking plan. The Building Committee and School Department staff will work with the Transportation Board on developing a comprehensive plan that considers parking on site, parking on surrounding streets, including on Beacon and Washington Streets. In terms of cost, each parking spot that is built under the school building costs approximately $160,000 per space. Each parking spot that is above ground typically costs $2,000 per space but would eliminate open/play space.

    The Town is monitoring nearby developments on Washington Street in Boston. Unfortunately, Brookline has no control over the scale, parking, traffic, or people flow that will be generated from those sites. As new developments unfold, they will be worked in to the process but at this point, there is not much Brookline can do to mitigate as-yet unknown effects in a process that (unfortunately) is not incorporating our input.

    That said, the Building Committee will present to the Transportation Board again beginning in January 2019, at which point resident input is critical. The specific decisions about the exact number of on site staff parking spaces and any additional staff parking needed on Town streets will be completed during the Schematic Design phase (January - March 2019).

    4. Construction Plans

    What is the plan for students and staff during the construction process?

    Because the Building Committee selected the design that will cause the least impact to the existing school building, students will continue going to school in the Driscoll School building during construction. They will not have to go to an expensive, sub-optimal, or far-away alternative “swing” space. During the Schematic Design and Design Development Phases, specific and detailed plans will be developed for how students will access the site and how safety and public health will be maintained on the site at all times. Importantly, use of open space including the possibility of temporary playspace onsite as well as nearby options like Corey Park and Waldstein will be evaluated for feasibility and safety.

    What precautions will be taken to ensure student, staff, and family safety during the entire construction process?

    The health and safety of students, staff, and families are essential during excavation, construction, and demolition. As the Town does during all school building projects, it will create specific and detailed plans to assure the safety of students, staff, and families in numerous areas including preventing access to the construction site -- especially, regularly monitoring air quality outside and inside the existing school building -- as well as mitigating noise, dust, and contact with construction personnel. The Town's requirements are stringent and are developed during the technical documents phase with the plan for execution created by the general contractor and approved by the Town before any construction begins. The Town has done building work with students on site recently, including at the Heath School, as have neighboring communities, and those lessons will be carried forward here in addition to the highest-standard best practices. With respect to neighbors, the Town will follow procedures as it did during the Coolidge Corner School renovation and as it will during the Brookline High School renovation. As these plans are being developed, they will be shared with the Driscoll Building Committee, staff, families, and community members to get input and refinement.

    5. Driscoll Project as part of a comprehensive townwide approach

    How did the town decide to pursue the renovation and expansion of Driscoll?

    On June 13, 2018, after nearly 10 years and four different site selection studies, the Select Board, School Committee, and Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee approved a comprehensive and long term approach to that will add the classroom capacity needed to provide relief across the entire town. These bodies agreed on a three-school solution that will expand the Baldwin School, renovate and expand the Driscoll School, and reaffirms the decision to partner with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to renovate and expand of the Pierce School. 

    The Driscoll School was chosen in particular due to the school's 67% enrollment increase from 2006-2017 (the highest pecentage of growth experienced out of all the current K-8 schools in the district in the past ten years), the school's inability to accomadate 4-sections per grade with its current infastructure, and the fact that the Driscoll School has not experienced a full-scale renovation since it was first built in 1911. 

    How will this Three-School Solution solve Brookline’s enrollment and overcrowding challenges?

    Expanding and renovating Driscoll, expanding Baldwin, and Pierce over time allows Brookline to address the overcrowding of all of our schools--the substandard spaces and overcrowding that exist in 7 of 8 of our elementary schools--as well as the ongoing enrollment increases, while not overbuilding in either North Brookline and South Brookline. Taken together, these projects will alleviate overcrowding across all of our schools, provide new and modern facilities fit for educating our children in this century, enhance their neighborhoods with new community resources that can be accessed by all, and bring our standards back up to our peer communities (which we are falling behind).

    Additionally, the combined impact of these projects reduce overcrowding and class sizes within the South Brookline population and schools at Baker, Heath, and Runkle. The development and expansion of unique PSB programming (such as English Learner Education and Special Education) will also create learning spaces for schools at Lincoln, Lawrence, and other schools. Finally, the project helps the district address town-wide infrastructure issues including students learning in sub-standard classrooms and learning centers. It also alleviates the district’s reliance on rental space for preK-8 and BEEP classrooms as well as office space for adults.

    In what way is the Driscoll project linked to the Baldwin and Pierce projects?

    The three-school solution was developed by vote of the Select Board, School Committee, and Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee in June 2018 after many weeks of public meetings and public hearings. These parties agreed that the townwide problem of overcrowding and sub-standard spaces demands a townwide solution, and voted to approve a multi-site approach to provide a comprehensive and long-term solution to address these problems.

    What happens if Driscoll goes forward and either the Baldwin or Pierce projects do not?

    If the town can’t address the ongoing and historic enrollment increases and the overcrowding in its elementary schools, then all preK-8 schools in Brookline will continue to be negatively impacted. It is too early to tell what specific remedies would occur, but it is highly likely that class size would continue to increase across all schools, including Driscoll, and likely, funds will be taken away from core projects in order to rent modular classrooms townwide. While Driscoll would have a modern school for its student population, core spaces in Lincoln, Lawrence, Heath, Baker, Runkle, and Pierce would remain severely taxed by the ongoing overcrowding in those schools. There is no maximum class size in Brookline, however, classes with more students than the School Committee class size guidelines have additional staffing available (e.g., classroom paraprofessional support). Driscoll will be no more disadvantaged than any other school in this scenario.

    What assurances do we have that the Driscoll School building project won’t fail, or that it won’t get “shaved down” to lower the cost?

    There are no assurances that the debt exclusion will pass. For Driscoll to be rebuilt and modernized, it will take a concerted effort by interested community members to convince Town Boards, Town Meeting, and ultimately, the voters to support and fund the project. In the immediate term, the project will only move forward if Town Meeting votes this December 13 to approve $1.5 million to fund the Schematic Design Phase. If Town Meeting approves that funding, then it is likely that an override will be put on the ballot and considered by Town Meeting in Spring 2019.  

    6. Other Questions

    What is the role of the Building Committee?

    The Driscoll School Building Committee was appointed by the Select Board in September 2018. The Select Board models this committee after the Massachusetts School Building Authority process for designing and building schools. The committee is made up of parents, community members who live near Driscoll, public officials from numerous Town boards, and school department and Town staff. The Building Committee advises and supports the Building Commission, Select Board, and School Committee on the design and construction of the school, oversees the project budget and schedule, and coordinates with town agencies.

    The Building Committee is also responsible for outreach to PSB staff, families, and community members and informing the public about the project’s overall progress during each specific phase of building development. The Building Committee serves for the duration of the project - from the Feasibility Design Phase all the way through construction.  

    Where can I find more information?

    Please see below for a list of additional resources: