Thomas Iarrobino

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If voters reject the ballot initiative on Tuesday to build a pair of new middle schools, students face the possibility of split sessions, according to the superintendent.

“If we don’t build these schools, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be in double sessions in a very short period of time, possibly within two years,” said Dr. Catherine Latham.

Today, 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

“Our schools cannot sustain that many students,” she said. Under double sessions, one group of students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the next group would arrive at 1 p.m. and go until 5:30 p.m., she said.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Latham, Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, Edward Calnan, member of the Pickering Middle School Building Committee, and Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, made the case for the $188.5 million project.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The new schools will add an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

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Calnan said they explored more than a dozen potential sites, but they were dropped due to a variety of issues. Some were in a flood zone or marsh land, others had hazardous waste that precluded school construction. A site at Magnolia Street would boost building costs by as much as $800,000 to move a water pipe that serves Swampscott and Marblehead, officials said.

A vacant parcel on Rockdale Avenue and Verona Street was examined, but the committee found the tight residential neighborhood was difficult to access and is privately-owned. They also looked at General Electric Co. properties on Bennett Street and on Elmwood Avenue. But those were rejected because of environmental concerns, they said.

Latham said all of the city’s middle school students should have the same experience as those attending the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Last spring, the 181,847-square-foot school opened for more than 1,000 students. The three buildings are divided by clusters, each distinguished by a different color. In addition to an outdoor courtyard, lots of natural light, the soundproof classrooms block any hint of the commuter rail trains that run past the rear of the school and the sounds of musical instruments from several music classes.  

In addition, there are suites for special education and art. The school boasts computer rooms complete with Apple computers. It contains home economics rooms, a woodworking shop, a television production studio and a health center.

Iarrobino, who serves as the liaison between the schools and the School Committee, said any discussion of school must include a link to the local economy.

“If folks are contemplating opening a business in Lynn, the first thing they will ask about is where will their employees attend school and what are the schools like,” he said. “We have an obligation to them and they have a right to the best quality education that is available to them, not just in the suburbs, but right here in an urban district.”  


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

New schools would cost $200 per household

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city council is set to put a question on the ballot in March that asks taxpayers to fund two new schools.

Voters will be asked to pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

The school committee voted last week to request the council take the action. Under the city charter, the 11-member council is obligated to put the question on the ballot, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million. A special election is expected to be held Tuesday, March 14.

If approved, 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.

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Officials say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment. Today, there are about 16,000 students in the Lynn Public Schools. But it has been increasing at a rate of 3 percent, or 500 new students annually, according to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“Enrollment continues to grow and we are out of space,” said Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee.

“If voters reject the bond, we could be at a point where we were many years ago when we offered only a half-day kindergarten. Public schools are everyone’s right and everyone’s tax responsibility.”

The other factor in play is the contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects. The department would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost. But if voters reject the bond authorization, the city stands to lose the state money.

The proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

But last month, the Pickering Middle School Building Committee reaffirmed its decision to locate the school off Parkland Avenue.


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

Schools prep for opening in Lynn

Lynn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham. File Photo

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — The school superintendent and her administrative team welcomed 110 new teachers to the district on Tuesday.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, her two deputy superintendents, and other Lynn administrators held an orientation session at Marshall Middle School. There, she talked to the new teachers about resources available to them, which includes a SMART board and computer in each classroom.

Teachers discussed topics including data literacy, educator evaluations, school security and technology.

“It is always uplifting to see the enthusiasm new teachers bring to the district,” Latham said in a statement. “We have a very good group this year.”

Latham also gave an overview of the district during orientation.

One district project nearing completion is the addition of a modular building with two classrooms, which will be built next to Tracy Elementary School to help ease overcrowding. Last year, enrollment for the school was at 440 students.

The $500,000 modular, pre-constructed building is expected to be ready for use by early October. Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, said site work has been underway for a week. Work includes setting up the foundation of the pad.

The module delivery itself is scheduled for the week of Sept. 19. The building will be dropped on the site and connected to the pad. Ramps will be added to it the week of Sept. 26, he added.

Before the building is ready, two fifth grade classrooms will temporarily be located in the gym. This will also change the morning entry into the building. Last year, students were able to enter the school and have breakfast, socialize and go to the classroom at 7:45 a.m. This year, the children will wait outside the building until 7:45 a.m, according to the Tracy School website.

Iarrobino said the reason for the modules is to create additional space from current buildings. The student population this year has gone past 16,000 kids. Five years ago, 14,000 students attended Lynn schools. Tracy already uses another module building. The Edward A. Sisson, Hood, Ford and Ingalls elementary schools also have modular classrooms.

Renovation work on the Ford School module took place over the summer, Iarrobino said. He said it’s been gutted and built out almost like a brand new module. The purpose was to update the building and make it more comfortable.

The first day of school in Lynn is Sept. 7 for grades 1 to 6 and 9, and a day later for all other grades.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Lynn students create a shadow government

Photo by Bob Roche
Lynn DPW mechanic Ernie Murphy, left, shows Lionu Kou of Lynn Tech how to fit a piston into the engine.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Precious Parker plans to attend a Texas university next year, but the charter school senior paid close attention Tuesday as a city mechanic assembled a piston.

Parker was one of 45 local high school students who participated in student government day events giving students a close-up look at how city government works and a chance to debate city council and school committee proposals.

Parker, a student at KIPP; English High School senior Jacob DeFilippo and four other students spent the morning at the Lynn Public Works Department on Commercial Street. They caught a glimpse at how city workers maintain parks and playgrounds and keep 300 city vehicles running.

City mechanic Ernie Murphy specializes in maintaining city fire engines. He took a break from working on Engine 7 to praise student government day activities.

“It’s good they do this for the kids,” he said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy kicked off the day with a quick speech at City Hall and state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and City Council President Dan Cahill explained why government is important.

“Think about the things you can do to impact people’s lives,” Cahill said. “It is exciting work.”

The Public Works’ scope of operation caught DeFilippo by surprise.

Public Works Commissioner Andrew Hall let him climb into a six-wheel, $144,000 International Truck capable of tackling winter storms and park cleanup projects.

“It’s unbelievable the work that gets done here,” said DeFilippo.  “I only had a small understanding.”

English High, Classical High School, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Fecteau-Leary High School and St. Mary’s High School students also participated in government day with half of the students taking on the roles of councilors and committee members.

English High senior Blertushe Xhemajli and a dozen other students framed topics for debate by student school committee members with guidance from Committee Secretary Thomas Iarrobino.

The students warmed to the topics of mobile device restrictions and a discipline suspension standard. Xhemajli suggested students should be talking with each other in person and not on a phone during lunch periods.

“You’re taking away the opportunity to get to know someone,” she said.

Fecteau-Leary student Angel Acevedo and Tech student Nico Ortiz discussed the merits of at-home versus in-school disciplinary suspensions. Ortiz suggested educators must find more ways to keep students in class and out of trouble.

Before saying goodbye to Parker, Murphy urged her to stay in school, study and succeed academically.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would be a dentist,” he said.


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