Lynn Stapleton

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is pictured at a discussion on schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — No new schools will be built in the city anytime soon.

That was the decision of a city panel Tuesday that orchestrated a plan for construction of two middle schools to ease overcrowding and replace a dilapidated facility.

Following last Tuesday’s special election where voters resoundingly rejected a request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field, the Pickering School Building Committee withdrew its application for state funding.

In addition to taking itself out of consideration for funds, Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager for the school proposal, said Lynn had a number of options. They included a plan to split the project into two and build one school first and then a second; build one school and renovate the Pickering Middle School; or build one school and use Pickering as an elementary school.

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

Before the vote to end the city’s bid for school dollars, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy invited Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, the grassroots organization that campaigned against the schools, to speak to the committee. The mayor said he had an alternative plan. But he declined.

School Committeewoman Donna Coppola voiced concern about where new students would be placed.

“We have kids coming in that will not have seats,” she said.

Edward Calnan said the committee did their job and despite the vote against the schools, the members should be proud of the work they did.

“We were told we needed to provide space for 1,600 students and that’s what we did,” he said. “We did an exhaustive search for sites in the city and came up with the best ones that were the least expensive to make the project viable.”

Off and running in Lynn

Kennedy said it’s clear the voters have no appetite for more taxes and she will honor their wishes.

“The people spoke loud and clear,” she said. “The problem was the price tag and I’m just ready to drop the whole thing. They say insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That’s what we would be doing if we did anything but drop it.”

With that, the 16-member group voted unanimously to tell the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the  quasi-independent government authority created to help pay for the construction of public schools, that Lynn won’t be seeking funds.

At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham choked back tears as she expressed her disappointment in the failure of the vote for the new schools.

“Our new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a model for the entire state and I was hoping that just viewing that could carry an equalized opportunity for all our students,” she said. “But it was not to be.” 

In an interview following the meeting, Castle defended his position not to speak to the committee.

“It was a bag job,” he said. “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn says no; so what now?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Cathy Rowe posts early returns Tuesday night at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — One day after a ballot question to build two middle schools lost in a landslide, proponents are reeling from the outcome.

“We knocked on doors and got great feedback from folks, so we were surprised and saddened by the outcome,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union. “I don’t know why there was such large opposition.”

In a special election on Tuesday, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the schools, managed to get the no vote out. They argued that the 44 acres near the proposed Parkland Avenue school site should be reserved exclusively for future burial grounds and open space.

At a meeting of the Pickering School Building Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, Lynn Stapleton, the school project manager, thanked the panel for their hard work and acknowledged the sadness in the room.

“It was an overwhelming no vote,” she said. “And the votes came from well beyond where the school was to be located. The outcome was really upsetting, but we will move on.”

Schools out in Lynn

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, said he plans to meet with the mayor in the coming weeks.  

“We want to give everyone time to consider the results,” he said.  “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site. And we ask the City Council to keep the 44 acres for the cemetery.”

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government authority that funds school construction projects, which agreed to fund a portion of the Lynn project, gives the city 10 days to explain why the vote failed and how the city wants to proceed. Under the agency’s rules, the city could withdraw or modify its plan and re-apply for funds by April 7 or meet next year’s April deadline.

One of the options is to build just one school, Stapleton said. Or the city could consider a phased option where construction begins on one school and then another. The other possibility is to simply add more classrooms at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. The city could also withdraw from the competitive funding process.

Given MSBA’s timelines, if the city decides to go forward with a new plan, nothing will happen until 2020.

Full results of Lynn school vote

But Stapleton suggested this was not the time to make any decisions.

“Emotions are a little raw right now,” she said. “Let’s think about it, schedule another meeting and see what we might come up with for alternatives. We don’t have lots of time. But if you think that you have any kind of plan that might conceivably work, I recommend that we submit it to the MSBA within 10 days and see if we can get them to work with us. Otherwise, your only other option is to withdraw from the program and submit next year and try to get back in.”

Following the meeting, Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was heartbroken for the school children and the city.

“I don’t think the vote was about the money, but I just don’t know,” she said. “I wish I knew.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she needs time to consider the vote.

“I need to figure out why they voted no,” she said.

Duncan, the union president, said the vote doesn’t resolve the need for more classroom space or the condition of school buildings.

“The Pickering’s roof was leaking significantly on election day from the melting snow,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to come up with a solution.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

The price of education increases by $5M

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNNIt’s going to cost more to build two new schools in the city.

The School Building Committee approved an amended construction plan on Thursday for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn at an estimated cost of $188.5 million, up from $183.2 million last summer, a nearly 3 percent increase.

Under the proposal, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

While the revised costs for the new Pickering fell to $85.8 million, down from $86.1 million thanks to a more compact design, the West Lynn facility saw its budget rise by nearly 6 percent to $102.7 million, up from $97.1 million.

Making friends in a new language

Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager, explained that the cost to build the foundation drove the price estimate up.

Still, there was some good news. Access to the new Pickering from Shoemaker Road has been eliminated, settling a hot button issue in the neighborhood. In addition, only one home, not two, would be taken by eminent domain for the proposed Pickering.

Typically, when a home is taken by a municipality, an independent appraisal is completed and the property owner receives fair market value, plus moving expenses.

“Our intention is not to harm,” said Stapleton.

School building plans have been submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent government agency that funds school projects. If approved, the agency would contribute more than 60 percent of the cost.

Still, to pay for building new schools, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike of more than $160 annually to their real estate tax bill for 25 years.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Middle school matriculating through state planning process

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pickering Middle School.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

BOSTON — The Massachusetts School Building Authority board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to advance Lynn’s proposal to build two new middle schools to the schematic design stage, allowing the city to move forward with plans to build a school in West Lynn and one off of Parkland Avenue.

The next steps for the city are to finalize plans for the design of the new buildings, as well as the development of the two sites, and return to the MSBA with confirmed costs and a funding mechanism in place.

The total cost for the project is estimated at $183 million, of which the MSBA would cover approximately $115 million, according to Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager. Lynn Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron told the MSBA board the city would be asking voters to authorize the city to raise the revenue needed to fund its share of the project.

“This is a major step forward,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who led the Lynn delegation that attended the meeting. “We want to provide state-of-the-art schools for students in the current Pickering district as well as those who live closer to the urban center. We are grateful that the MSBA has given us the approval to move forward.”

Lynn’s proposal calls for a 652-student school to be built off of Parkland Avenue, commonly referred to as the reservoir site, and a 1,080-student school on McManus Field, behind Lynn Tech. The current Pickering’s 78,600 square feet would be replaced by more than 313,000 square feet of space — 131,325 at Pickering and 181,847 at the West Lynn school.

While Pickering’s enrollment this year is approximately 620 students, district-wide enrollment has increased every year since 2008, including almost 400 more students this fall than last spring. Projections indicate the trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

Space is especially tight at the elementary level, particularly in the downtown and West Lynn, thus the proposal for the McManus Field site.

MSBA Chair Deb Goldberg, the state treasurer, spoke to the critical need for a new Pickering, having visited the school during her campaign in 2014. Referring to it as “my school,” Goldberg said she spoke of the conditions at Pickering as she traveled the state, calling it “an example of what we aren’t doing for kids.”

MSBA board member Terry Kwan said she had visited a Lynn elementary school (Tracy) and saw that they are using “every nook and cranny.” She said because Lynn is a gateway city with available housing, families with children are moving in, leading to increased enrollment in Lynn schools.

In response to a question from MSBA board member Sean Cronin, it was determined that this would be the first time the MSBA approves a community replacing one school with two new ones on two different sites. “That is an indication they recognize the great need that exists in Lynn,” Stapleton said.

State Rep. Donald Wong, who represents two precincts in Lynn’s Ward 1, attended and spoke in favor of the project. “We are grateful for Rep. Wong’s support.” Kennedy said.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said she is pleased the MSBA advanced the proposal, citing the extensive research and due diligence that went into it. “We brought forth the best proposal for students, teachers, staff and families,” she said. “It is important that we focus our efforts on ensuring the project stays on track and results in the construction of two schools that will maximize opportunities for teaching and learning.”


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Residents rail against Pickering plans

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Peter Grocki argues against the Breeds Pond Reservoir site plan for a potential new Pickering Middle School.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — On Wednesday night, residents at a public forum had another chance to weigh in on potential new Pickering Middle School sites.

Project architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. presented information about the project before a crowd that nearly filled the auditorium of the old Pickering.

The forum focused on the site near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, which has drawn heavy criticism from residents at past meetings.

One of the more contentious points discussed over the course of the evening was the possibility of private homes being removed in order to provide the new school with two points of access.

Of the potential areas being considered for a school location, only the reservoir site would require the taking of private homes by eminent domain.

Raymond said one option is to create a route across from Richardson Road, which would require the removal of two homes. The Lynnfield Street option would take one home at the end of Shoemaker Road and another at the end of Severance Street. A third option near Basse Road would not require the removal of any homes.

Raymond added that the results of an ongoing traffic study may help shed light on the best location.

“Don’t tell us this is a plan, then tell us you’re going to take someone’s home,” said Gayle Chandler of Parkland Avenue during the public commentary session. Chandler added that residents should continue to fight the development in court if necessary.   

Ellen Barr of Richardson Road voiced traffic and safety concerns. She said parking along Parkland Avenue already begins early in the morning and that it’s a common route for large trucks.

Other residents were angered by the encroachment of the development on Lynn Woods and Pine Grove Cemetery.

“The woods across the street from the cemetery is the cemetery,” said Donald Castle of Bellevue Road.

Attendee Elizabeth Sutherland, who lives on Woodside Terrace, said she was skipping school for the night to come to the forum.

“By the time I had a flier in my mail it was only a few days from when something was happening,” said Sutherland.

Former city councilor Joseph Scanlon, who also lives on Parkland Avenue, said he was at the forum to listen.

“I’ve been to all three meetings and they seem to change all the time,” said Scanlon.

The forum was the third of its kind and Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said there will be another sometime in the next several weeks to discuss the proposed McManus Field middle school site.

Stapleton said that while a formal recommendation should be forthcoming from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on Nov. 9, there’s still another year in the development process left to go.

Lynn states case for new middle schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Gene Raymond of Raymond Designs explains the pros and cons of each potential site.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city is considering building two new schools to replace Pickering Middle School.

Architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Lynn Stapleton, the project manager, and city officials discussed options for the new facilities with residents Wednesday night.

Construction is expected to start next spring and take more than two years to complete.

Raymond and Stapleton worked on the $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School project.

This is the first in a series of public forums on building options and potential school locations.

The city is working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which has authorized construction of a facility equipped to hold up to 1,660 students.

Stapleton said the team is considering a two-school solution, with a total capacity of 1,600 students. The plan would alleviate overcrowding at Breed Middle School and prepare the city to educate an influx of students in coming years, she said.

Breed has 1,300 students and is designed to hold about 900, Stapleton said.

The larger capacity would accommodate about 1,000 more people in the district, and take students from Breed, Raymond said.

“One thousand, six hundred students would probably make it the largest middle school in the commonwealth,” he said. “Putting that all in one neighborhood in the city is really going to stress whatever neighborhood that is.”

Raymond also said that renovating the existing Pickering building would be “impossible and a tremendous waste of the city’s efforts and money.”

The designers are considering a dozen locations citywide, each with different permitting timelines and feasibility, he said.

Sites such as Gallagher Park and Magnolia Park were among contenders. But any open space taken for the project must be replaced elsewhere in the city, he said.

Union Hospital was considered. But the site was quickly rejected because of opposition to it’s closure, and Raymond described Barry Park as a “bathtub” during a storm.

Wetlands and traffic implications were also factors for many of the sites.

The team concluded that two “least impactful” sites are McManus Park and what they call a “reservoir site” on Parkland Avenue.

Flooding in the McManus Field neighborhood is ocean flooding, rather than rainfall, Raymond said.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said regardless of where the flooding comes from, it’s a problem in the neighborhood when it rains. He suggested developers coordinate with Lynn Water & Sewer Commission to resolve the problem before construction begins.

Resident Brian Field expressed concerns that the Parkland Avenue parcel is controlled by the Cemetery Commission and will need to be used for a cemetery expansion of the Pine Grove Cemetery within the next decade.

Michael Donovan, building commissioner, said city attorneys completed research to  determine the property is city-owned.

“These two are probably the most viable options,” Raymond said. “They’re both not jammed up against neighborhoods.”

He also had a plan for getting to each of the schools to avoid nearby Wyoma Square, which is often a bottleneck. Cars traveling from the north would follow Lynnfield Street to Averill Road. From the south, they would travel on Richardson Road, he said.

Those who hadn’t had the opportunity to see the new Marshall Middle School, got a first look through a slideshow presented by Superintendent Catherine Latham. The presentation highlighted aspects of Marshall that will be seen in the new school or schools.

Latham expects the new school will feature a cluster system, much like the one at Marshall. The children are separated into separate clusters of about 120 students. The clusters are color-coded and have all of the primary classes in one area of the building.

“We will be doing the same for Pickering,” she said.

The new school will also have the same electives offered at Marshall, including sewing, directing, and art classes, Latham said.

“These subjects make students want to go to school,” she said.

The next forum is scheduled for June 22.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Marshall plan coming to its conclusion

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine C. Latham, Marshall Middle School Vice Principal John Pavia, Marshall Vice Principal Stephine Doucette and Lynn School Committee member John Ford, from left, look at one of the new science rooms in the school during a tour on Tuesday.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — A Tuesday tour of the new Marshall Middle School, located on Brookline Street, underscored the extensive progress made toward the building’s completion.

“The new school is going to make faculty, students and the community feel better about the education they are receiving,” said Superintendent of Lynn Public Schools Catherine Latham. “New things give people good feelings. The new school will also give our students so many more opportunities to learn.

“The students will be thrilled with the cooking class, sewing class, TV studio, new carpentry shop, graphic design class, computer classrooms, library/media center, well-equipped science labs, bright art rooms and vocal and instrumental music rooms,” Latham said.

The new school building has four floors and is 18,647 square feet, said Owner’s Project Manager Lynn Stapleton of NV5.

Comprised of three buildings (buildings “A”, “B” and “C”), which are all connected, the school is designed for 1,100 students in grades 6 through 8,”  Stapleton said.

The project is moving along and developers are expecting a spring completion, rather than the originally anticipated fall completion.

“The project started in the Fall of 2012 and will be finishing April 2016,” Stapleton said.

Building “A” will be the first to be completed, then building “B” and building “C” will follow suit, she said.

Stapleton led Tuesday’s tour accompanied by architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates.

Raymond said when working with the city to come up with a design for the building, emphasis was placed on the importance of making the large school feel more quaint.

“Just to put it in perspective, Pickering (Middle School) holds 650 students,” he said.

“We wanted to take a big school and (separate it) into smaller clusters,” he said. “Students most of the time will stay within their cluster. It will help students and teachers get to know each other” and will be beneficial for “positive reinforcement.”

Science labs, math, english and other core classes will be located on the second, third and fourth floors, he said. There will be specialized spaces on the first floor.

“The most important thing was trying to break it up so it felt smaller,” he said.

The new school will offer students new classes they weren’t offered before, including home economics classes, sewing, culinary arts programs and updated life skills facilities that include laundry rooms with washers and dryers, storage rooms and separate culinary areas.

Lynn schools “used to have these programs and now we’re bringing them back,” said Latham. “We’re putting in things that make kids want to go to school.”

“By restoring the culinary arts and sewing programs we’re providing more of a well-rounded education,” said City Councilor Brian LaPierre. “It’s (a good balance) of more rigorous classes with fun and interesting skill sets.”

Culinary classrooms feature station sinks, ranges, cooktops, dishwashers and ample storage. They also have demonstration areas.

The window glass on the building is sound attenuating and blocks out the majority of the outside noise. The decision to use the glass was prompted by trains that frequently pass the school, generating a lot of noise.

“The train goes by every 15 minutes but you wouldn’t know it,” said Stapleton.

Several acoustic studies were conducted to find a solution, said Raymond.

“You will hear it but it’s very low level,” he said. “It won’t disturb things.”

“I could not be more thrilled to see the project nearing completion,” Latham said. “It has been a long time coming, but it is just the first of a series of new schools for Lynn.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com.