By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Town Meeting members overwhelmingly supported a proposed $25 million renovation and modernization of the Lincoln Street Elementary School, sending the proposal to a town-wide debt exclusion vote Monday, May 12.
After about an hour of discussion, voters backed the project by well more than the necessary two-thirds majority.
Superintendent Charles E. Gobron noted that the project is a “very long time coming,” with the need to modernize the nearly 50-year-old school having first been raised by a town-wide facilities study more than 15 years ago.
Presenting the project to voters, Kathryn Crockett of architects Lamoreux Pagano & Associates, said the original school, designed in 1965, no longer meets the needs of a “21st-century learning environment.”
In addition to constructing a new access road that will provide emergency access around the entire building for the first time as well as separate bus and parent drop-off areas, the project will add a new gymnasium situated to be accessible to the community as a whole, she said.
In addition to all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, the project will include some sustainable design features, including a roof that is capable of having photovoltaic solar arrays installed. A specific kindergarten educational space will be created, and the project is designed to be expanded if Northborough's declining elementary school enrollment begins to climb again in the future.
The work will be carried out in four phases, Crockett said, starting with the construction of temporary modular classrooms next spring, and is scheduled to be completed by 2017.
Voters who spoke were largely in favor of the work, though some questioned whether a smaller renovation would have been more suitable.
Lincoln Street School mathematics teacher Lorie Caldicott said the renovations would address a host of issues at the school, from a lack of storage and appropriate educational space to an undersized library located in a former locker room and plumbing and heating problems.
“This project addresses all these issues and more,” she said.
Bill Peterson of Howard Street said the potential to capture more than $10 million in state funding was an appealing aspect of the project.
“I’m not used to seeing a big bucket of money from the state,” he said.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority, which has endorsed the design, will reimburse the town $10.4 million. The town's portion of just over $15 million will add $148 per year to the average single family home tax bill.
The proposal now moves to a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion vote Monday, May 12.