State OK’s $21mto upgrade school
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The Massachusetts School Building Authority has approved an initial design and funding for additions and renovations to the Lincoln School, paving the way for residents to vote on the $50 million project in November.
The district is eligible to receive a maximum of $21 million reimbursement from the state, with local taxpayers responsible for the balance.
“Essentially, they approved what had been submitted,’’ Al Schmertzler, chairman of the town’s School Building Committee, said of the state agency. “Now we have to wait for the town to vote it up or down.’’
He said Special Town Meeting on Nov. 3 is scheduled to vote on the proposal. If the plan is approved, a request to raise property taxes to pay for it through a Proposition 2½ override would be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
School Committee chairwoman Jennifer Glass said she is optimistic that residents will support the project.
“Given the almost $21 million in reimbursement agreed to by the MSBA, this is a fantastic opportunity for Lincoln to not only make necessary repairs, but to holistically renovate the school and make it a safe, energy-efficient building for decades to come,’’ she said.
If the project moves forward, the school district and the Massachusetts School Building Authority would enter into an agreement detailing the project’s scope and budget.
Plans call for a 53,000-square-foot addition to the existing school, as well as system, structural, and architectural upgrades to meet building code requirements and to support the district’s educational program. The Lincoln School was built in 1948, and serves 600 students in kindergarten through Grade 8.
“We have studied all the options and this is the most cost-effective plan to provide an excellent educational environment for Lincoln students,” said MSBA’s executive director, Jack McCarthy.
The Lincoln School has had a series of additions over the years, with the latest in 1994. Officials say the list of problems at the school is extensive. It does not have a fire-sprinkler system, the roof leaks, the boiler floods, windows have broken seals, and the electrical system is so old the district can’t find replacement parts, and the space is also inadequate to meet current educational needs.
Schmertzler said the Smith Building, the oldest section of the campus, would be torn down as part of the project.
The major change would not be the increase in square footage, officials say, but in the upgraded educational spaces. All of the classrooms will be designed to make better use of natural light, provide a quieter environment, and provide better air quality.
“This is a project that will renovate the best of what we have, replace the oldest and least efficient part of the school, and provide our students and teachers with an educational environment that is as vibrant as the teaching and learning that goes on on a daily basis,’’ Glass said.
Officials looked at several options to repair the school, ranging from all renovation to all new construction to a mix of both.
Glass said school officials have taken several steps to keep the community informed about the progression of the project and why it’s needed. She said they have done direct mailings, created a website, and held a series of forums.
“Each time people have had the chance to listen to the proposal and ask questions, they have come away with an appreciation for what the project accomplishes, and an understanding of the fiscal benefits of partnering with the MSBA,’’ Glass said.
She said the question now most on the mind of voters is the impact on property taxes. She said town officials are putting the information together. The next community outreach meeting is scheduled for 9:30 to 11 a.m. Aug. 28 in the Lincoln Public Library. She said forums will continue throughout the fall, and information about the project’s scope and timeline, and a financial analysis will be sent to residents well before the Nov. 3 Town Meeting.
The school submitted a feasibility study to the state in May 2011 for a $58.5 million project that exceeded the state guidelines for square footage by about 40 percent.
Town and state officials have been working together since last summer to develop a plan to meet the needs of the town and satisfy state guidelines.
If residents support the project, Schmertzler said, construction would likely start next summer and take about 18 months. He said students would remain on the school campus but would be moved within buildings as construction takes place.
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.