Opinion

School for thought in Swampscott 

A new school year has started in Swampscott and town officials are hoping parents completed their August homework assignment.

Residents were asked to fill out a survey ranking the importance of energy efficiency in planning a new elementary school. Asking people in the middle of August to think about anything except a vacation is often an exercise in futility. But the town request for resident participation dovetails with an acceleration in planning for a new town school. 

The School Committee picked Philadelphia-based firm Hill International a month ago to be the school project manager. As soon as the state School Building Authority signs off on Hill, the company can get to putting together a project design team and completing a feasibility study for the project. 

That study could end up being one of the most important documents written on behalf of Swampscott in a long time. Its bottom line will focus on the best option for constructing a new school and recommending where that school should be built.

Once the study is completed, Hill will advise local officials on school building details including design, engineering and construction schedule. 

Town residents need not look beyond the desks set up in Clarke School’s hallways to understand why it’s time to focus on elementary school construction in Swampscott. Each of the town’s three elementary schools face challenges ranging from building age and deterioration to cafeterias and gymnasiums failing to meet state standards on providing adequate student space. 

Aging heating and ventilation systems are tallying up expensive repair costs and Clarke is the only elementary school that is handicapped accessible. In 21st century America, that educational inadequacy alone should set off warning bells for parents. 

Even parents who did not take time to weigh in on the school energy efficiency survey can take advantage of the school year’s start and the transition to homework and after-school activities to start thinking about the future of elementary education in Lynn. 

Town Meeting last year budgeted $750,000 to hire Hill, and the town only has an assurance that the money is well spent if every resident follows the feasibility study and project timeline and makes their voice heard concerning the different options for a new school.

Renovating or replacing Hadley School, building a new kindergarten through fifth grade school or a kindergarten through fourth grade school, or building two instead of one new school are ideas that will help define the town’s future. 

Every local parent has an investment in that future.

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