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Preschool plan is only the first step

In 2012, the Town of Mansfield thought it had solved all of the school system’s facility problems.

The plan called for building two new elementary schools where Annie E. Vinton and Dorothy C. Goodwin elementary schools exist.

Then Southeast Elementary School would be closed, with renovations being done at Mansfield Middle School.

In essence, Mansfield was going to trade in three smaller, older, antiquated facilities for two new, modern elementary schools.

It was going to cost $65.7 million (with Mansfield being reimbursed for some of it), but it was going to ensure modern school facilities for decades.

But in January 2013, the Mansfield Town Council pulled the plug on the plan, voting against sending the project to a referendum.

The reason? It was expensive and local officials didn’t think it would pass.

They were probably right.

But, it doesn’t mean the issues have gone away and, currently, Mansfield is still trying to figure out what to do.

The schools aren’t getting any younger.

Recently, the school system hired a consultant to look at the school facilities again, with major decisions upcoming.

One part of that is recent news Mansfield is looking to move all of its preschool classrooms into the Mansfield Discovery Depot, a nonprofit, early childhood education center that operates in a town-owned building at 50 Depot Road.

Space left in the town’s three elementary schools from the preschool move could then be better utilized.

But that idea, expected to be decided early next year with implementation in 2019-20, is only a first step.

There are still a lot of questions in Mansfield, but the big one is what do you do with aging buildings (average age: 57), declining enrollment (down 10 percent by 2022) and a price tag that won’t go down.

So far, Mansfield is mulling a proposal that could result in simply closing one of the elementary schools due to declining enrollment.

On thing that is certain is any school building renovation proposal similar to what was ultimately rejected by the council in 2013 won’t fly.

Stay tuned.


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