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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 [email protected]

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