Local leaders talk about solutions to heat problems in Marlborough schools

Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant stands with State Representative Danielle Gregoire and US Representative Lori Trahan at Jaworek Elementary School. (Picture/submitted)

MARLBOROUGH – A 71 degree day led to temperatures approaching 80 degrees in a classroom at Jaworek Elementary School in Marlborough last month as local leaders visited the school.

In August, Principal Ron Sanborn said, that average temperature could climb as high as 87 degrees.

“It’s not the most conducive space for learning,” he said.

Mayor Arthur Vigeant was on hand for the tour alongside state lawmakers, city councilors and U.S. Representative Lori Trahan, among others.

Speaking during and after the tour, officials acknowledged the issues facing school facilities before then discussing the impacts of planned federally funded projects.

“Children need these improvements,” Trahan said.

Officials note harsh conditions

Marlborough has received just under $10 million from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of that aid – $6.3 million – from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The city now plans to use $4.5 million to upgrade existing HVAC systems and add cooling systems at Jaworek and Kane Elementary Schools.

“[ESSER] was always to make sure we could reopen our schools,” Trahan said last month.

HVAC upgrades, she continued, are part of that mission.

They are made all the more necessary, added Superintendent Michael Bergeron, by an increase in registrations currently affecting Marlborough.

The city had added about 300 new students between Oct. 1, 2021 and the end of last month, according to Bergeron.

The district, he said, has been able to manage class sizes, in part due to the addition of two new elementary positions added in the city’s recently approved fiscal year 2023 budget.

Nevertheless, the school spaces are full to bursting.

Even on last month’s after-school visit, guests stopped by a Jaworek classroom now split in two by a portable partition. Two classes of students were studying in that same physical room, Sanborn said, with the partition representing the district’s attempt to preserve a sense of separation between the groups.

“We’re just taking in more kids,” Bergeron said. “And when you have more kids in those classrooms, it gets cramped.”

This has impacts on already strained HVAC systems, he continued.

“We want to look at this from a long-term perspective and ensure that all buildings have an up-to-date HVAC as soon as we can secure funding,” he said.

City focus on Jaworek and Kane with ESSER

Marlborough Schools Director of Finance and Operations Doug Dias speaks with Superintendent Mike Bergeron and U.S. Representative Lori Trahan during a visit last month. (Picture/submitted)

Problems persist at several facilities in the district, Bergeron said.

Jaworek and Kane, however, represent some of the best sites to work within the limits of ESSER funding.

Where the city’s Whitcomb Middle School, for example, spans about 300,000 square feet, those schools are smaller, making upgrades more manageable, Bergeron noted.

Although it also needs work, the city’s Richer Elementary School is the subject of broader discussions involving the State School Building Association (MSBA), which the city hopes will fund a series of upgrades. as part of a possible expansion of the school.

The city has filed an expression of interest with the MSBA for support.

“We want to make sure we’re not pumping money into a school that we could then have the state reimbursed,” Bergeron said of the decision to leave Richer out of planned funded HVAC upgrades. by ESSER, in the light of the MSBA process. .

Representative Highlights need funding

Superintendent of Marlborough Schools Mike Bergeron speaks during a visit to Jaworek Primary School last month. (Picture/submitted)

Speaking after last month’s tour and back outside the school in Jaworek, Trahan said she was not surprised by the conditions she observed.

Her elementary students are seeing similar heat and classroom capacity issues in their own district, she said.

“[These schools] have systems in place where they couldn’t afford the upgrades or they just haven’t been kept to that level,” she said. “That’s why this investment is so important.

“It’s just proof that we need to continue those investments and ensure that our children are in optimal learning environments,” she continued.

Project timelines to be determined

Even included in the ESSER funding plan, work at Jaworek and Kane will take time as ongoing supply chain issues prevent the city from completing its projects simultaneously, officials say.

“Companies aren’t there with the materials to do it,” Vigeant said. “It is a problem.”

As a result, specific timelines for the work remained undetermined as of last month.

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