Thursday, October 5, 2017

Recognizing Great Things in Billerica Schools

As the calendar turned to October, we began a new campaign to recognize all of the great things that are happening every day across the Billerica Public Schools! Each morning, we will be posting a brief picture and story of something that is happening in the district on our Facebook page at - whether it is a large one-time event, or something that is part of our everyday practice - because our students and staff do amazing things every day and deserve to be celebrated!

Check it out!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Town Meeting Funds Capital Projects for Schools

Last night at Billerica's Town Meeting, representatives overwhelmingly approved a $1,000,000 spending article for capital improvements across the district.  My thanks go out to Town Meeting representatives for their support, and to our team in the district for putting together our plan.

The list of projects presented at Town Meeting last night is below; the vast majority of this work (my necessity) will be done during times when school is not in session in order to not impact school for students and staff.  The full presentation can be found at

  • Kennedy School: Supply and install new 2nd floor hallway ceilings and new LED lighting (phase 3 of 3): $63,000
  • Kennedy School: Asbestos abatement of VCT flooring in Cafe and replace with new VCT: $50,000
  • Dutile/Kennedy Schools: Playground structure improvements: $96,000
  • Locke School: Asbestos abatement of VCT flooring in Cafe and foyer hall and replace with new VCT: $97,000
  • Locke School: Repave bus loop: $40,000
  • Marshall School: Asbestos abatement of VCT in Cafe and replace w/new VCT: $71,000
  • Marshall School: Asbestos abatement of VCT in N wing and replace w/rubber (phase 3 of 4): $169,000
  • Marshall School: Asbestos abatement of VCT in S wing and replace w/rubber (phase 4 of 4): $210,000
  • Marshall School: Partial locker replacement: $51,000
  • Ditson School: Bridge paving (phase 3 of 3): $59,000
  • Multiple schools: Carpet replacement: $45,000
  • Multiple schools: Cafe table replacement: $19,000
  • Multiple schools: Ceiling panel coating: $30,000

Monday, July 31, 2017

Redistricting Team - Seeking Input

Weekly Construction Update - July 31, 2017

Work has continued to happen at a rapid pace on the high school site throughout the summer, and steel work is continuing to proceed very well!  Since these stories are best told through pictures:

 View from the southwest corner of the site

 Looking at the two southern academic wings (areas C and D)

Panoramic picture from the west side of the site 

 Looking down the main hallway of the academic building from the north

Looking at the steel for the academic areas (C, D, E) from the east

Here is the list of construction activities for the coming week:
  • Site utilities are ongoing
  • Temp storm water facilities are in place and continue to function as expected
  • Under-slab coordination is complete; Slab On Deck ("SOD") pours are scheduled to start within the next week and Slab On Grade ("SOG") pours following in early August
  • Foundations are 99% complete
  • Continued waterproofing, insulation, backfilling, compaction, and grading operations are ongoing throughout the site
  • Structural steel is complete at building C, nearing completion at building D, and underway at building E.
  • Coordination of brick and mortar selection, as well as planning for important masonry detailing, is underway with the masonry trade contractor
  • Mock-ups for masonry selection and ultimately all other facade materials are in the planning stages as the applicable sub-contractors are bought out
  • Items expected to commence in August include spray-on fireproofing ("SOFP") and roof blocking with main branches for HVAC and Fire Protection following towards September 

Introducing the Redistricting Team

In September 2019, the Billerica Public Schools will be going through a grade reconfiguration with the new Billerica Memorial High School opening for Grades 8-12, the two middle schools shifting to Grade 5-7 buildings, and the five remaining elementary schools serving Grades K-4.  We will also be closing the Vining School at the end of the 2018-19 school year.  For more information about the reconfiguration, please visit our FAQ document at

These changes will require a redrawing of attendance lines for all elementary and middle schools across the district in order to provide the best education for all students in Billerica.  As this process will impact each of our schools, the Billerica Redistricting Team was formed and will be seeking input from the community throughout the process.  The Redistricting Team is composed of school personnel and parents representing each current elementary school attendance area and the members are:

Diana Aguila, Parent, Hajjar District (
Christine Balzotti, Principal, Dutile ES (
Jennifer Bartes, Parent, Ditson District (
Tracey Burke, Parent, Vining District (
Rebecca Chaffee, Parent, Kennedy District (
Michael Domina, Parent, Dutile District (
James Gately, Chair, Billerica School Committee (
Jill Geiser, Assistant Superintendent (
Rob Haggerty, Parent, Parker District (
Robin Hulsoor, Director of Finance and Operations (
David Marble, Principal, Kennedy ES (
George McCormack, Assistant Business Administrator (
Tim Piwowar, Superintendent (
Mike Rossi, Principal, Marshall MS (
Suzanne Sullivan, Principal, Parker ES (

Later today, the team will be putting out its first survey to solicit input from the community about what is important in this process; we value your thoughts and hope you will share them with us!

Grade Configuration FAQ


As you are probably aware, the Billerica Public Schools are currently building a new Billerica Memorial High School that will serve Grades 8-12.  This was approved by the Billerica School Committee and Billerica Memorial High School Building Committee in March 2015 in order to address educational and facility needs in the district.  Below, please find some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about this new configuration.

Where did the idea of a Grade 8-12 high school originate?
This idea came out of the district’s comprehensive master facilities plan that was developed in 2012, and is designed to address both educational and facility needs in the district.  It originated during a series of educational visioning sessions done as part of the development of the plan.  During those sessions, we had about 50-60 participants that included administrators, teachers, parents, students, town officials, and community members.

The plan to bring Grade 8 into the high school would be done in conjunction with a building project that created physical separation between a Grade 8-9 part of a building and a Grade 10-12 part of a building.  One of the big motivators was to create better transitions for adolescent students as they move from middle school to high school.

What are the educational reasons to add Grade 8 to Grade 9-12?
The transition from middle school to high school can be a difficult one for many students.  By creating an environment where Grade 8 and Grade 9 students are clustered together within a high school building, separated from the older students, it has the potential to create a smaller and more conducive learning environment for students during these critical years. 

At the same time, moving Grade 8 into the high school would provide opportunities for students who excel to take advantage of greater learning opportunities that they would not have access to in a middle school setting, e.g., advanced math, fine arts, etc.

Beyond these two reasons, adding Grade 8 to the high school would also increase the number of students that are able to access a modern educational facility in a given year.

What are the financial/facility reasons to add Grade 8 to Grade 9-12, and what impact would it have on the other schools in the district?
In the 2012 master planning study, the district looked at all of the school buildings in order to identify a long-range plan that made sense for the district as a whole.  The study identified that the majority of our elementary schools were undersized for their current populations and were relying on temporary modular buildings that have outlived their normal lifespan.  By building a Grade 8-12 high school, this relieves pressure on the elementary schools by shifting the grades in the other buildings as follows:

With 8-12 high school
High School
Grades 9-12
Grades 8-12 (8-9/10-12)
Middle Schools
Grades 6-8
Grades 5-7
Elementary Schools
Grades K-5
Grades K-4

Is it true that the Vining School would close if a Grade 8-12 school is built?
Yes.  By shifting the grade spans of the elementary schools to K-4, this would create enough room in the other five elementary school buildings to house the district’s population. 

Although the Vining is an excellent school, it has physical limitations as it is the district’s oldest elementary school, built in 1957.  It currently houses only 201 students (as of the end of the 2016-17 school year), and the master planning study identified over $13 million of capital improvement work needed in the building.  Closing the Vining would remove the financial liability associated with maintaining this older building as a school, and has the potential to identify cost savings in the operating budget through consolidation of district resources.

If the Vining were to close, this would necessitate the need to look at attendance boundary lines for all of our elementary schools.  One of our goals in redrawing these lines would be to try to create a direct correspondence between elementary schools and middle schools, so that students from the same elementary school would not be split up into two different middle schools as they transition.

How would you look to manage the age range of students in a Grade 8-12 building?
By creating physical separation between the Grade 8-9 part of the building and the Grade 10-12 part of the building, students would have little interaction during the school day.  The two areas of the building will share common areas (e.g., library, cafeteria, gymnasium), but will have their own administrative support systems.

Would Grade 8 students be able to participate in athletics, performance groups, or other high school extracurricular activities?
Yes.  In fact, in selected sports with smaller numbers, some Grade 8 students already participate through athletic waivers; this would open up the opportunity to all Grade 8 students.  Similarly, other activities would be accessible for all students.

When will the changes occur?
The new grade configuration and associated redistricting will take effect when the new high school opens in September 2019 at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

Where can I find out more information?
Information about the Building Committee can be found at, on Facebook at, or on Twitter at @NEWBMHS.