Brookline eyes possible sites for new school
Brookline officials have identified possible locations for building a new school as efforts to find more classroom space in existing buildings have failed to keep up with unrelenting increases in enrollment.
Two of the six sites presented by consultants as feasible locations were singled out for “additional due diligence and analysis” by the Board of Selectmen and School Committee at a meeting Oct. 22. The school would house 550 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
The first of those is in the local historic district of Cottage Farm, adjacent to Amory Park, which could be used as the school’s playing fields and recreational area, according to a report presented by CivicMoxie, a planning and urban design team based in Brookline.
The second site is at Larz Anderson Park, and would be part of a new campus located next to the auto museum. The potential school site is on land now used as a service area with two town-owned sheds, not on open space.
“It is a misconception that we are thinking of putting a school in the middle of a park,” Neil Wishinsky, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday. “That’s not the case at all.”
The four other sites identified as feasible by CivicMoxie include a municipal parking lot east of Centre Street in Coolidge Corner; a mixed-use design with a school built on top of the Stop & Shop on Harvard Street in Brookline Village; a complete renovation and expansion of the Old Lincoln School on Route 9; and another mixed-use option on the privately-owned parking lot adjacent to T.J. Maxx on Harvard Street, which would include retail stores, underground parking, and rooftop recreational space.
The complete report presented by CivicMoxie is available on the town’s website at www.brooklinema.gov/1286/9th-Elementary-School-Study.
Over the past decade, K-8 enrollment has risen by nearly 1,500 students, to 5,375, necessitating 56 additional sections and increasing class sizes in most classrooms from 18 to 21 students, to 20 to 22 students, according to a report from acting Superintendent Dr. Joseph Connelly.
In addition, enrollment is project to continue to increase, with more than 500 additional students expected to move into the system by 2021, necessitating 32 more elementary sections.
Plans at this point are still in the early stages, according to the town’s Director of Economic Development Kara Brewton. Officials are envisioning a new two- or three-story, 100,000-square-foot school with three sections for each grade level from K to 8.
“All of the options that have been identified so far are still in the conceptual stage,” Brewton said. “There haven’t been any engineering, traffic studies, or soil samples done.”
In addition, no estimated costs have been publicly identified since the town may have to negotiate sales with private land owners, such as Boston University at Cottage Farms.
In neighboring Newton, new elementary schools of similar size to what is being proposed in Brookline are being constructed at an approximate cost of $40 million each. However, they are being built on the site of the smaller schools they are replacing.
The Brookline Board of Selectmen, School Committee and staff members from various town departments have “open houses” for residents to have their questions about the ninth school proposal answered.
The first is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3, at the Denny Room in the Public Health Building at 11 Pierce Street Lower Level, from 6 to 9 p.m., and the second will be held on Thursday, Nov. 12, in Town Hall in the School Committee room on the fifth floor from 7 to 9 a.m. A third open house will be held on Thursday, Dec. 3, with the time and location still to be determined.
Note: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect time for the Nov. 12 meeting. It will take place from 7 to 9 a.m.