Lincoln weighs school options

LINCOLN — After months of deliberation, the Lincoln Community School building committee has recommended major renovations and expansions to the aging school. After further study of the options and a public comment period, the full school board plans to seek voter support on Nov. 2 for a bond of between $3.5 and $4.2 million to pay for the work.
When the committee began weighing choices for the space in April, it looked over a set of three possible options: building a new school, closing the school and tuitioning out the students, and renovating and expanding the existing school.
Ultimately, the committee reasoned that the path that would be most cost-effective and healthy for the community would be to undertake major renovations to the existing building.
One of the problems that the school is currently facing is its aging infrastructure.
“It’s just a mess up there, between the roof, the furnace and the sewer,” said Donald Sargent, a member of the Lincoln school board and building committee.
Principal Tory Riley added that space has become an issue, with the computer lab and several classrooms currently occupying a trailer outside of the main building.
The committee’s analysis of the available options for the school concluded that a full closure of the school would not offer significant savings.
The current annual budget for the school is $1.6 million. Riley said that although closing the school would save the town operating costs for the building, there would still be dues to the supervisory union, tuition and transportation costs for the students. This, she said, would add up to about $1.4 million each year.
There were other aspects of the school’s presence in the town that the committee took into consideration.
“The school is an asset to the community in terms of a focal point,” said Riley. “It’s a positive, successful school.”
On the other hand, the committee decided that the cost of a new school would be prohibitive. Even without the cost of a new plot of land, construction of a new building would run up a bill of between $6 and 8 million.
Sargent added that since the town owns the building, it would eventually be faced with the cost of repairs or demolition.
The committee thus decided that retrofitting and building additions on to the school would be the most feasible option. After working with Montpelier-based Black River Design Architects, the committee settled on the plan for between $3.5 and 4.2 million.
Riley said that this cost was higher than originally expected, but that the committee had added other needed work. And Sargent said that the committee had decided to opt for longer lasting, lower-maintenance materials and strategies. Still, both said that the costs might be higher than the town was expecting for a renovation project.
“If the bond doesn’t pass, then it’s back to the drawing board,” said Sargent. “We’ll probably scale down some things.”
The board expects to warn the final amount for the proposed 20-year bond on October 1. Before that time, Riley said that the board will hold a public meeting at the school on Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. to seek public input on the plans.
Much of the renovations will focus on the school’s infrastructure, said Riley. Plans call for consolidation of the heating and ventilation systems and improvements to the building’s insulation. Externally, the plans include installing a new metal roof, replacing the siding with more durable material, installing new doors and windows with efficient and rot-resistant materials, and moving the school’s main door to the front of the building.
To address the space difficulties in the school, Riley said that the additions to the building will include a 50 percent larger library, added space for meetings in the principal’s office, and a new computer lab and additional instructional space inside the school; these rooms are currently housed in a temporary trailer installed in 2007.
The additions will also alleviate the stress on the multipurpose room, which currently serves as a gym, cafeteria, music, performance and art room. Riley said that there will be two spaces added for these purposes: an art and lunch room plus a performance space and music room, which will allow more flexible scheduling for the existing gym as well.
According to Andrew LaRosa, an architect at Black River Design, the new construction will add approximately 6,000 square feet to the building, which currently measures roughly 14,000 square feet.
Riley said that the current plan calls for a start of construction in June of 2011, and that the work would be done while school was out for the summer — though it could end up spanning two summers, depending on the speed of the project.
“It’s really about education,” she said.
She added that the 111 students currently attending prove that there has been no drop in demand for a local school.
“Our population is projected to stay steady,” she said. “It’s been between 110 and 120 students for the past 20 years. We’re not a school that’s losing population.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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