Squeezing in at Grafton Middle School

A few years ago, I was hanging out in the deli line at Stop & Shop, where the deli clerk was going on and on with a customer about how “horrible” Grafton Middle School is. She said she wanted to call a television station so they would do an expose. Naturally, I was intrigued, so when she finally called my number, I handed her my business card and asked her to go into more detail.

Faced with an actual inquiring journalist, she clammed up. Instead of an expose about Grafton Middle School, I got lunchmeat.

This morning, I visited Grafton Middle School. There were a few more parents on this trip — six, plus Principal Richard Lind and me.

Grafton Middle School kind of resembles everyone’s middle school years: it’s not pretty. Of all the Grafton schools, it’s the one that most shows the wear and tear. It reminds me of Bellingham High School, the old one I attended in the 1980s and, trust me, that is never going to be a compliment. According to the bricks outside, it was built in 1962.

GMS wasn’t designed to be a middle school. It was an elementary school until the late 1970s, and some bathrooms still contain the tiny fixtures adapted for younger children. According to Lind, when he arrived at the school nine years ago, it held 460 students. It now holds 652 students, and the coming classes are only going to increase the population.

“I’m not sure how much longer we can hold these kids,” Lind said. “You do run out of space at some point. A classroom can only hold so many.”

Four modular units, holding seven teachers, are expected to alleviate some problems as of 2009. These classrooms would be added on to the back of the building (kids shouldn’t need to walk outside to get to class) and shouldn’t take away too much from the already-limited space the school has for playing fields. As it is, the fields are too small for the school’s annual field day, which must be done at the high school, and the baseball team has to hold its home games elsewhere.

The parking area out front is very small. There are only 100 parking spaces, which can hold the roughly 80 people who work in the building — but because the area is so small, it takes almost half an hour to run through student dismissal since all the buses, of course, cannot fit.

What else can’t fit? The teaching staff. There are eight teachers who do not have classrooms to call their own. They move from room to room throughout the school day, carrying their materials on carts. Lind said it makes the school a bit unappealing for new teachers — given the choice between a district that paid a little less but provided them with a room and Grafton, which might pay a little more but might make them wander, many opt for the room.

“Their life is in a little cart that they drag from place to place,” Lind said. “That affects teaching, and that affects living.”

GMS has been very creative with the space it has. Several classrooms that were designed to be single classrooms have been divided into two classrooms. It leads to some odd-looking rooms in some cases.

The weirdest conversion: there is no stage in GMS’ cafetorium. What used to be the stage is now windowless office space for guidance staff. Any performances by GMS kids must be done at Grafton High School.

The cafeteria, like that in Grafton High, is too small. There are three lunch periods a day, the earliest at 10:36 a.m. (My future sixth grader is kind of dubious about that, but Lind says the earlier start to the school day makes them pretty hungry at that hour)

Computers are at a premium. There are ActiveBoards in every classroom (they’re like the SmartBoards at Grafton Elementary) but there aren’t necessarily computers in every classroom. They do have a classroom’s worth of laptops that circulate on a cart but, of course, that limits use. There are also computers in the library.

The Macs that are carefully lined up on the bookcase are not meant to be an art display — they will be set up in another section of the library which, of course, will take away space for studying and, you know, books.

Grafton Middle is essentially where the school system is really going to feel the pinch with the coming wave of students. If a new Grafton High is built, that will free up the current high school — the school system could realign the grades to, say, make old Grafton High for grades 7-8 and the current middle school for grades 5-6, opening up space in Grafton Elementary.

Heck, that could even trickle down to North and South Grafton and open up space for full-day kindergarten. But that’s just crazy talk…

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5 thoughts on “Squeezing in at Grafton Middle School

  1. The town of Grafton is incredibly short sighted. Instead of building the Grafton Elementary School, the town should have built a new high school. Then the high school could have been converted into a middle school and the Grafton Middle School used for elementary school purposes.

    I attended both GMS and Grafton High School. If people think these buildings are small today, they should have been a student before the renovations.

    The town is one big new home development. Who moves into new homes – families. Who needs schools – families. There is so much infighting between the “old residents” and the “new residents” that the town just runs around in cirlces. My family happened to be a “new” resident back in the 80s – Grafton does not treat newcomers well, but newcomers fuel the growth of the town.

    Good luck in your efforts to obtain a new high school. I think it is pretty sad the condition of the facilities in the town.

  2. I go to this school, I know that this school is like an oven in the summer! When the bell rings the hallways are crowed, and its hard not to trip over someones foot in front of you. The lockers need to be tuned, some of the lockers can open by them selfs without using a code. The upstairs bathroom sinks are way to low.

  3. I was completely against building the new school. It actually increased my property value, by the way, since I live near it, but it is an atrocity.
    While I acknowledged that we needed additional school space, I found the whole process short-sighted and space wasteful. Unfortunately, while I feel vindicated, that does not help the students and teachers who are still squashed.
    What we really need to do is consolidate and build UP. I grew up in southern New Jersey, and our schools were often two to three to even four stories high. Of course there were elevators for those who could not use stairs–the rest of us were in great shape running up and down! If we had two schools where the high school and town offices are, they could both utilize the playing fields, thus cutting down on the need for extensive stretches of land. The new elementary school is an example of wasted land use and sprawl. Even with all that new space, I have heard many complaints from parents that services are being denied LD children because of a lack of space, so that really drives a stake deeper into the heart of sprawl. I have even heard from teachers and contractors about teaching in small, cramped spaces in all of the schools, and Mr. Lind’s comments about using a cart to move supplies needs to be taken very seriously–any professional who feels like a homeless person pushing a grocery cart will not stay in that position for very long!!
    Build up, Grafton, and fix the schools, for our young people will be the workers, the tax payers, and the future of this town as well as of this country. And we want the best and brightest teachers, do we not, to educate them.

  4. I also go to grafton middle school. Some rooms during the year may be 70 or 80 degrees, but when you move they are like ice boxes. It’s almost like livig in constant ice age and global warming fueds. The halls are crowded, but most have adapted to this way of constant close quarters. If we were able to combine lunches, the more time there is for socializing, and perhaps in the summer outdoor activities.

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