Last week the Lynn City Council voted unanimously to authorize Lynn Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham to submit two ‘statements of interest’ to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) seeking funds to build a new Middle School that would replace the overcrowded Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue as well as emergency funds to finally replace the roof at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute Annex. The vote by the Council follows a unanimous vote by the Lynn School Committee on February 6 in favor of sending the two statements of interest to the MSBA.
Submitting a statement of interest is the first critical step in the MSBA’s program to partially fund the construction, renovation, addition or repair of municipally or regionally owned school facilities located in cities, towns and regional school districts. The statement of interest allows districts to inform the MSBA about deficiencies that may exist in a local school facility and how those deficiencies inhibit the delivery of the district’s educational program.
Last year, Lynn voters overweeningly rejected $200 million proposal to build a new middle school in the city by a vote of 64 percent to 36 percent. The plan at the time called for building two, new schools in Lynn to replace the Pickering, which the Superintendent said is being affected by severe overcrowding. One school, near Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue would have housed 652 students while the second school at McManus Field on Commercial Street would have been able to house 1,008 students, according to the plans.
With the Pickering bursting at the seems with around 650 students, Lynn is facing the same problem that some other surrounding cities and towns are facing–having more students than seats at local schools.
However, with the city rejecting the proposal the City must now turn to the MSBA for funds to get the project off the ground.
“I’d love to get this project back in the mix again,” said Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee at the February 6 School Committee meeting. Mayor McGee serves as chair of the School Committee.
After the meeting Mayor McGee said, “There is a clear need to replace Pickering Middle School and to build a 21st-century school that provides our kids with the education they deserve. It is important that the community is engaged in this process. We look forward to having a robust discussion with the residents of Lynn on what the replacement of Pickering would entail.”
The Council’s vote last week aims to eliminate existing severe overcrowding at the middle school and prevent severe overcrowding in the future as enrollment is projected to only increase. The Council members called the Pickering “obsolete” and a new school would provide students and teachers with a wide range of additional programs that are now limited due to the size of the Pickering.
“I am thrilled that Mayor McGee, the Lynn City Council and the Lynn School Committee are all in support of submitting a new statement of interest to the MSBA for Pickering Middle School,” said Superintendent Latham. “We all know that Lynn is in serious need of new schools not only to replace buildings that have become seriously outdated, but also to alleviate overcrowding, improve curriculum offerings for our students, and improve the culture and climate of the buildings for everyone who uses them.”
Superintendent Latham added that she and Building Commissioner Michael Donovan are currently working on the statement of interest, and will submit it to the MSBA before the deadline in April.
The subsequent vote to authorize Superintendent Latham to submit a second statement of interest for the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute Annex seeks grant money or funding from the MSBA for an accelerated repair project for the school’s roof.
The city wants to replace the school’s old roof with a new EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) with three inches of insulation.
However, the Council and School Committee both cautioned at their respective meetings that submitting statements of interest to the MSBA in no way guarantees the acceptance or the approval of an application, the awarding of a grant or any other funding commitment from the Building Authority.