Special TM on schools’ expansion Saturday

Nov 18, 2020 by

Published November 18, 2020

FRIENDS, from left, Chloe Lavino, Juliette Lavino, Sadie DePrizio, Sophie DePrizio and Josephine Charville hold signs in support of the elementary schools’ expansion project in front of the Meeting House on Nov. 14. A Special Town Meeting will be voting on the project on Saturday, Nov. 21. (Courtesy Photo)

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Voters will make the first of possibly two decisions on the $17 million elementary schools’ expansion project during a Special Town Meeting on Saturday, Nov. 21.

The Special Town Meeting will take place at 1:30 p.m. at Lynnfield High School’s Pioneer Stadium on Saturday. If the plan to add on to the Summer Street and Huckleberry Hill elementary schools is approved, a special election will be held on Dec. 8 so as many voters as possible can decide the proposal’s final fate. The expansion would require a hike in residents’ property taxes.

While Town Meeting traditionally has a 175-voter quorum requirement, the selectmen and Town Moderator Joe Markey agreed to reduce the quorum to 50 voters for the spring and fall sessions of Town Meeting. The selectmen and Markey made the decision after the State Legislature approved a law this past spring that allows communities to reduce quorum requirements to no less than 10 percent of the traditional threshold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Town Administrator Rob Dolan noted during a Nov. 12 Zoom teleconference informational session about the building project there will be 500 seats spread out across the football field. If more than 500 people show up for the Special Town Meeting, he said people will be able to sit on the bleachers.

“We are going to do this on Sunday if it rains,” said Dolan.

While the town tentatively has no plans to provide free childcare for families on Saturday, Markey informed the Villager parents will be allowed to bring their children to the Special Town Meeting.

Markey also noted a heated tent will be set up near the Lynnfield High Snack Shack for elderly people as well as people with medical conditions to sit.

“It will be first come, first served,” said Markey.

A SIGN OPPOSING the elementary schools’ expansion project was placed in front of a Main Street home last week. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

After an overview of the project is given to attendees, the project’s supporters and opponents will each be given three minutes to speak on Town Meeting floor.

If the Special Town Meeting approves the elementary schools’ expansion project by the required two-thirds vote needed, voters will be asked to approve a debt exclusion during a Special Town Election on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The projected tax increase for each household will be an additional $205 over a 20-year period.

Similar to the spring and fall sessions of Town Meeting, voters will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Voters will be checking into the Special Town Meeting in front of Lynnfield High School. Townspeople are encouraged to check into the Special Town Meeting early.

The $17 million elementary schools’ expansion project involves constructing two permanent additions onto both elementary schools that would each contain five classrooms in order to address increasing enrollment. Two existing classrooms at both schools would be renovated as well.

Local officials decided to move the project forward after the School Building Committee (SBC) and the School Enrollment Capacity and Exploration Committee (SECEC) determined local data as well as data provided by the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) confirmed enrollment at both elementary schools will be increasing over the next decade.

According to the proposed plan, Summer School School’s proposed addition would be located off of the fourth grade wing while Huckleberry Hill’s addition would be located in the back of the building. Four traditional classrooms would be built at each school while the fifth classroom at each building will be utilized as an individualized learning space.

Tappé Architects principal owner/lead architect Charlie Hay recently told the Board of Selectmen he recommended permanent additions be built instead of modular classrooms because they not only cost the same, but permanent additions will last longer.

Huckleberry Hill’s project also includes enlarging the gym, which would be used by local community organizations such as Lynnfield Youth Basketball and Lynnfield Youth Volleyball as well as Huckleberry Hill students. The project also includes expanding the parking lot at each school as well as the pick-up and drop-off areas at each campus. New fields will be built at both schools, and a new playground will be built at Summer Street.

The Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Finance Committee and Recreation Commission have all unanimously voted to recommend the expansion project.

“The recent successes of Lynnfield Public Schools have been seen through regional and national accolades, the success of LPS alumni and even in the rise of property values as young families are increasingly moving to Lynnfield for the schools,” said School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman in a statement. “The challenges we face with expanding enrollment threatens to erode that success with significantly larger class sizes in the elementary schools. These additions will provide the education space necessary to continue to fulfill our promise for generations to come, while adding adding much needed recreation and community space for the town and also addressing parking, traffic flow and safety at each school.

“The Lynnfield community has consistently made, and continues to make, a commitment to its schools,” Hayman continued. “I want express my thanks and appreciation for the support Lynnfield residents show in making sure our school district is second-to-none.”   

Selectmen Chairman Chris Barrett agreed.

“This is an important moment to secure the best educational opportunities for all of our children for many years to come,” said Barrett in a statement. “This school expansion plan will address our space issues, improve site challenges that our elementary schools have faced for decades, advance recreational opportunities, and create educational space that promotes excellence in teaching and learning. I hope that the community will fully support our plan to expand the Huckleberry Hill School and Summer Street School, and join in our efforts to meet this challenge and opportunity to ensure that our children will continue to enjoy the outstanding educational opportunities that Lynnfield has always afforded our children. We can proudly say that our schools are among the best in the commonwealth of Massachusetts because our children have a dedicated community that always supports them and outstanding teachers who always go above and beyond to make sure they excel in and out of the classroom.”

Finance Committee Chairman Chris Mattia noted that the $205 tax increase will cost residents an additional $17 per month.

“The need is urgent,” Mattia stated in a Letter to the Editor appearing in this week’s Villager. “We have already outgrown our space, and risk deterioration in the quality of our elementary education, which is built on small class sizes and small class sizes that help the youngest students learn. Maintaining a quality educational environment for our youngest learners is the right thing to do. But it’s also a wise financial investment for the town and should be a priority for its residents.”

Recreation Commission Chairman Rich Sjoberg, who is also the School Committee’s vice chairman, said the commission “is proud to be a partner in support of the school expansion project.”

“Lynnfield Rec fully endorses the long-term investment in elementary education and the increased opportunity for after-school, indoor recreational programming,” Sjoberg stated. “Lynnfield Rec fully recognizes it is the positive impact of these investments which continually shape our incredible village.”

In addition to local officials weighing-in on the project, signs in support and against the project have begun being placed on lawns around town.

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