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Brookline panel endorses school expansion

Enrollment has risen 25 percent

BROOKLINE — A committee voted Monday to recommend that the town expand its high school and several
of its kindergarten-through-
eighth-grade schools to help address surging public school enrollment.

The Committee on Brookline School Population and Capital Expenditures, referred to as B-SPACE, voted, 8 to 0, to recommend to the School Committee that existing schools be expanded.

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Though the cost of the projects has not been determined, early estimates by town officials put the range at $150 million to $300 million, and the town is establishing a committee to study a Proposition 2½ override.

“This is a momentous occasion,” committee member Ken Goldstein said of the vote Monday night.

Public school enrollment has jumped about 25 percent in Brookline since the 2004-05 school year, bringing the number of students to more than 7,200 and causing significant overcrowding.

The surge has been especially steep in the early grades and as those large classes advance, officials say more space will be needed at Brookline High School.

The vote Monday followed months of meetings that were packed with parents and residents wearing green, blue, or red colors to show opposition to options being considered.

One proposal that had drawn fervent opposition, the reopening of the Old Lincoln School along Route 9 as a permanent new K-8 school, was still on the table Monday night before the final vote.

The committee decided only to recommend that the Old Lincoln School be considered for temporary space, or space where students could be housed while their permanent school buildings were being renovated. The committee also recommended that the old school on Route 9 could be used as a permanent space to expand Brookline High.

Previously, the committee had voted against controversial proposals to build a new school on part of Amory Park or at a Chestnut Hill location that would have required a massive redistricting of where students go to school.

The committee had also been considering changing the school district’s grade configuration and building a new seventh-through-12th-grade school.

But Town Administrator Mel Kleckner said Monday that the town received a letter from the Massachusetts School Building Authority saying that if the town opted to change its configuration of grades in the district’s schools, then the state would have to reconsider its funding for town projects.

Instead of reconfiguring the grades at each school, the committee is recommending that maximum expansions at the Driscoll and the Devotion schools be considered.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.
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