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The Boston Globe

West

Lincoln

Town planning to try again on school expansion

The town of Lincoln has scrapped initial plans to rebuild the Lincoln School and will instead start over with a design that officials hope the community will embrace.

School officials spent the last few months meeting with residents and community groups to see if the existing project could be salvaged after voters rejected the plan in a townwide vote last year.

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But after hearing concerns about the layout of the proposed project, including the demolition of a building that was constructed less than 20 years ago and the lack of green space, officials said they will start over.

Jennifer Glass, the chairwoman of the Lincoln School Committee, said the new project would be set up in an L-shaped configuration, similar to what is there now. Glass said it would have a central green space, keep most parking out of sight, and save more of the Smith Building on campus.

“The L-shape has the potential to address the big facility issues and hopefully maintain those pieces that were strong community values,’’ Glass said.

‘We learned a lot in the past few months and are committed to moving forward with community engagement and communication.’

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The town in November rejected the initial $49.9 million project, prompting officials to reevaluate the plan. Residents raised concerns about the environmental and aesthetic effects on the rural school campus, the cost, and the overall process for developing the plan, which called for a combination of renovation and new construction. The state had agreed to pay $20.9 million toward the project as long as the town approved it.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority gave the town until the end of February to see if it could win support for the project or change direction. In mid-February school officials sent the School Building Authority a letter saying they did not think there was enough support for the original project and asked for the L-shape reconfiguration. However, the state has decided that the change is too drastic and will not approve it as part of the original project, said Dan Collins, an agency spokesman.

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“In general, it was determined that the changes in project scope were sufficiently large as to render it a different project,’’ Collins said. “We would consider that a new project so they would have to submit a new statement of interest and that begins the process at square one again.’’

Glass said town officials are disappointed, but are focused on moving forward and meeting the April submission deadline. She said several town boards met last Wednesday night to set a preliminary timeline for submitting a new statement of interest for state funding. She said the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen must approve two readings of the new statement of interest and submit it by April 10 . The School Committee is scheduled to take its final vote on March 21.

Glass said the statement of interest is a general statement outlining the conditions of the school and issues that need to be addressed. She said it will be similar to the previous statement the town submitted for the failed project. The substantive changes, she said, will come during the design phase of the project.

The original project would have consisted of a 53,000-square-foot addition to the school, and include system, structural, and architectural upgrades to the existing building to meet current building code requirements and to support the district’s educational program. The Lincoln School was built in 1948 and serves 600 students from kindergarten through Grade 8.

The Lincoln School has had a series of additions over the years, the latest in 1994. Officials say the list of problems at the school is extensive. It does not have a sprinkler system, the roof leaks, the boiler floods, windows have broken seals, and the electrical system is so old the district cannot find replacement parts. The space is also inadequate to meet current educational needs.

Glass said she hopes that, with the design changes, the community will be able to get behind the new project.

“We feel as though we have the opportunity to gain the necessary community support,’’ she said. “We learned a lot in the past few months and are committed to moving forward with community engagement and communication.’’

If the town is able to get back in the state funding pipeline this spring, Glass said, it would likely still be about two years before construction begins. The town still needs to go through the state design process and win approval from the town, she said.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.

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