It is, no doubt, a monumental local election season in Lynn, with the incumbent mayor facing a challenge from the longtime president of the City Council.
But the most important issue before voters — possibly on the September preliminary ballot but that’s not yet set in stone — is whether to support the proposed new $84 million Marshall Middle School. More precisely, whether to support an $84 million school that will cost Lynn taxpayers roughly $17 million, since the state is committed to pay 80 percent of the cost.
The state offer will not be on the table forever. In fact, some might argue the issue should already have been put to voters. But the School Committee and the City Council have to sign off on the ballot referendum before the date is set in stone.
As The Item reported in its Closer Look feature story on Monday, Marshall Middle School is 90 years old, though its wear seems even longer than that.
Lynn has a school system of 14,000 with roughly 1,000 enrolled each year at Marshall, a lot more than the building housed in 1923. Its brick exterior is crumbling and the interior has an open plumbing system — pipes along ceilings of many classrooms — many windows deemed too dangerous to open and a buckled gym floor.
Students, to be sure, can receive a quality education at Marshall — and there has been great enhancements in security in recent years — but the building is beyond tired, and the children, teachers and staff deserve better.
Lynn Superintendent Catherine Latham made the point in Monday’s story why the new Marshall Middle School vote is the most important issue before local voters this year: There are three other schools that are older. Pickering was built in 1907; Tracey Elementary in 1898 and Cobbett Elementary in 1874.
“If a vote for Marshall doesn’t work, nothing else will come. We’re done,” Latham said.
We typically refrain from recommending to voters whether they should support particular projects with their tax dollars. But whether a voter has a child or knows a child in the school system or not, local officials have a job to do to get the message across that Lynn school buildings are not in a state of crisis, but a state of disgrace.
The commonwealth is ready to kick in more than $60 million for a new middle school. Voters cannot let this opportunity pass, as there are many other communities on the list waiting for the same opportunity.
What’s more, investing in schools benefits more than students, teachers and staff. It affects residential property values, too, and sends the message to young families considering moving to this city, that Lynn is a city that cares about its youth and its future.