Saugus district approves student relocation

Construction at Helmers Elementary will cause students to be relocated for the next two years. January 22, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Saugus Union School District leaders unanimously approved the temporary relocation of students from Helmers Elementary School to North Park Elementary during campus construction.

The approval from the board of trustees will temporarily relocate fourth- through sixth-grade students from Charles Helmers Elementary School to North Park Elementary School beginning August 2020 until June 2022, due to construction on the Helmers campus.

“It’s the best option,” said SUSD Superintendent Colleen Hawkins. “We surveyed the kids, and what was important to them was having enough play space and staying with their friends — and parents’ concerns were having a proper and safe environment.”

The relocation will happen over a two-year period, when students will be bused from Helmers to North Park before school, and back to Helmers at the end of the school day.

Although students will be on North Park’s campus, they will still be students of Helmers, Hawkins said.

Funds for the construction project will come from the Measure EE bond. Portable classrooms on the campus will be replaced with a permanent building, displacing approximately 12 classrooms, which amounts to 280 students.

The relocation was initially proposed during the Jan. 21 board meeting, when the board and Hawkins, along with Nick Heinlein, assistant superintendent of business services, discussed various student housing options during the construction.

The board also approved a series of tenets that would act as guiding principles to help come to a decision regarding student housing in the event of future construction needs. These principles included keeping students safe, having “the best possible educational environment,” being fiscally responsible and creating a modern school space.

Community meetings since the initial proposal were scheduled by the board to gather information from parents and teachers, along with surveys that were sent to parents unable to attend the meetings.

“We’ve heard all the parent and student input and some parents were asking for us to hold off on construction but the escalation cost is 10% annually, which is millions of dollars, so we can’t continue that,” Hawkins said. “We need to build this building and the school deserves it.”

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