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Watertown's Aging Schools May Need Major Renovations

School construction projects could also add more space for growing enrollment in the school district.

With elementary schools running short on space and schools as much as 90 years old, Town Councilors said they want to start talks soon with Watertown school officials about making major renovations to the town's schools.

Watertown's enrollment is expected to increase by 84 students next year, and most are coming into the elementary schools, said School Committee Vice Chairman John Portz.

"It may get higher, and the area where we could see an increase is in kindergarten," Portz said. "People are moving into to town and enrolling into school."

Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said new programs in the district, such as those for special education programs, take up space in the schools. School officials have made efforts to use space more efficiently, she added, including eliminating offices for some teachers and others so they can be used for other purposes.

Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she is concerned about where students will go if enrollment keeps rising.

"How much enrollment can we see at the elementary schools and the middle school?" Kounelis said.

School Business Services Director Jack Loughran said some of the schools have been in town for generations.

"There are some significant birthdays this year," Loughran said. "The older part of the middle school 90 years old, the older part of the Lowell School is 85 years old and the older part of the Phillips Building is 75 years old."

School Built Renovated Watertown High School 1930 2004 Watertown Middle School 1922 1998 Lowell School 1927 1996 Cunniff School 1954 1997 Hosmer School 1957 2002 Phillips Building 1937 2001

Improving facilities has been discussed by a School Committee subcommittee, said School Committee member Michael Shepard, but not by the whole School Committee.

Kounelis said talks should start "sooner rather than later."

Town Council President Mark Sideris said he thinks a plan must be created soon.

 

"The schools are an average of 72 years old," Sideris said. "This is more than just enrollment. We need to look at it as a comprehensive package because it could have a significant impact on this community."

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