Mayor,Schools Head Back to the Drawing Board

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

With the defeat on Tuesday of the two school ballot questions, which would have allowed the city of Lynn to build two new middle schools at an estimated cost of almost $200 million, city officials, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham, will be forced to explore new options for managing the city’s growing school population, while simultaneously improving the health, safety and learning environment in school buildings that are crumbling around teachers and students.

Of the 8,539 votes cast on the first question, 5,350 were against the proposal to build two new school and on the second question to finance the schools, 5,440 of the 8,454 votes cast were opposed to a Proposition 2 ½ debt-exclusion that would have added approximately $200 per year to the average property tax bill. The no vote was nearly unanimous in every ward and precinct across the city.

However, that does not solve the situations in the school buildings, where school and city officials agree that new schools were needed to fix a problem of insufficient space and inadequate facilities.

“I’m disappointed for the students more than anything,” said Kennedy, who also dismissed the possibility of renovating the existing Pickering School. “We can’t afford it, it would be $44 million out of the city’s budget … there is absolutely no way we can afford to renovate Pickering.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine Latham also noted her disappointment.

“The greatest investment a city can make is for the education of its children,” she said in an email.  “Apparently our residents are unable to make such an investment at this time. I will continue to work with the state and the city to examine possible solutions to our school needs.”

The proposed two school project would have built a 652-student school near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue, with a second school for 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

During the campaign leading up to the Election, Dr. Latham tried to make the case that 3,100 students already attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

City Council President Darren Cyr, a supporter of the new schools proposal, said after the vote that he was disappointed in the result.

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