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Opponents to reopening Brookline school turn up heat on town

BROOKLINE — Discord among parents and residents continues to rise as town officials near a decision on how to address surging enrollment that is leading to overcrowding in the public schools.

Parents opposed to one of the proposals under consideration, reopening the vacant Old Lincoln School on Route 9 as a kindergarten through eighth grade school, have gathered more than 400 signatures on a petition asking the town to back off the idea.

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Opponents attended a meeting Monday night of the Committee on Brookline School Population and Capital Expenditures in town hall, which is considering the proposal.

Among them was Robert Sperber, a superintendent of Brookline schools from 1964 to 1982 , who said he was trying to get students out of the Old Lincoln School when he was in office. The school was finally closed in the early 1990s, he said.

“In our judgment, it would be a tragedy to return to a school we fought so hard to leave,” Sperber said in an interview before the meeting.

Opponents object to the school’s location along heavily traveled Route 9, and the lack of green space around the building.

The committee is exploring a number of options to relieve overcrowding, including building a new kindergarten-to-eighth grade school, expanding existing buildings, reopening Old Lincoln, and possibly building a second high school.

The town expects the Proposition 2½ override that would be needed for the projects could lead to tax increases of well over $600 on a median single-family home in Brookline valued at $1,071,750 .

The panel is planning to vote in mid-August on its final recommendations to the town’s School Committee, according to cochairman Alan Morse.

Enrollment in the town has jumped by about 25 percent since the 2004-2005 school year, with especially sharp increases in the number of students in the early grades.

Brookline has expanded its Runkle and Heath schools, and is planning a $90 million renovation and expansion of the Devotion School in Coolidge Corner. School officials have said that by fall 2017, the school district may not be able to accommodate all the students at the Brookline High School campus.

Some committee members said they are not ready to remove the Old Lincoln for consideration as a kindergarten-to-eighth grade school.

Member George Cole said that when the town begins seeking an override, some will question why a vacant school is not being used to remedy the enrollment surge. “To eliminate it early on, I think is a mistake,” he said.

Brock Parker can be reached at
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