On September 19, 2017, the Brookline Board of Selectmen and School Committee voted to expand the sites under consideration for a new 9th elementary school to include a portion of the Pine Manor College campus, which would be taken through the process of eminent domain. This site has the potential to be an "A+" school; however, the Pine Manor College community has been adamantly opposed to this idea, stating concerns about impact on student experience and recruitment. Many in the Brookline community are also opposed to this site, because of concerns about eminent domain in general, to eminent domain of this property in particular, and concerns that are similar to those of the nearby Baldwin site (limited walkability and the resulting increased carbon footprint from driving to school, increased traffic from driving, reduced open space from building on undeveloped land, among others). The potential of these issues, either alone or in combination, to make the site either unfeasible or ultimately unpopular with the voters is currently unknown.
Within this context of uncertainty, this warrant article would authorize funding for the feasibility and design study for an expansion of the Pierce School, located in Brookline Village, which is the epicenter of school capacity need. The proposed study could be undertaken in parallel with any other study or studies, e.g. the study to be voted on under Warrant Article 5. The key benefits of this approach are three-fold:
1. A "two-site solution" that involves Pierce and a South Brookline location would add capacity where it is most needed in both North and South Brookline, while still
respecting other core values of Brookline, i.e. walkable schools, respect for open space and the environment
2. If for some reason the first choice of the BoS/SC does not pass feasibility/design or otherwise falls through, the Pierce feasibility and design will mean that we are not back at square one.
3. Pierce is badly in need of complete renovation or replacement and was next on the list of school improvement projects anyway. Even if the ultimate decision is not to address the school capacity through an expansion at Pierce, the study will provide important information on the first step of what is possible on the site for its renovation a few years later.
The proposed article is a slightly modified version of Article 5 in the November 2017 Special Town Meeting. The key difference is that Article 5 seeks solely to authorize funding for a feasibility and design study for a 9th school; it does not address expansion/replacement/reconstruction of a school, it only suggests the building of a new school in a new location.
To see if the Town will vote to release and approve the remaining balance previously appropriated under Section 13, Special Appropriation No. 67 of Article 9 of the 2017 Annual Town Meeting, to fund schematic design services for the construction of a 9th elementary school to be located at 490 Heath Street, or, in the alternative, to re-appropriate the remaining balance previously appropriated under Section 13, Special Appropriation No. 67 of Article 9 of the 2017 Annual Town Meeting to be expended under the direction of the Building Commission, with any necessary contracts greater than $100,000 to be approved by the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee, for feasibility and schematic design services for the construction of one or more additional elementary schools at a different location or locations and/or the expansion, replacement or substantial reconstruction of an existing school or schools, or act on anything relative thereto.
|Official Text of the Article
VOTED: That the Town re-appropriate up to $1 million in funds previously appropriated under Section 13, Special Appropriation No. 67 of Article 9 of the 2017 Annual Town Meeting, to be expended under the direction of the Building Commission, with any necessary contracts greater than $100,000 to be approved by the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee, as follows: (1) $300,000 for the purpose of further site evaluation services, including legal services, at the Baldwin/Pine Manor sites and site evaluation services, including legal services, at alternate sites, which shall include but not be limited to the Pierce School and adjacent properties, and the Baker School; (2) an additional $400,000, for further feasibility study; and (3) a further additional $300,000 (or a total of $700,000 for feasibility studies), for further feasibility study on a multisite solution should a multi-site solution be chosen. The evaluation and determination of a single- site or a multi-site solution prior to the expenditure of funds for feasibility studies referred to in (2) and (3) above shall include the options of constructing a new school and of demolishing, renovating, and expanding existing schools, with the determination of a single-site or multi-site solution made by the Board of Selectmen and School Committee with the advice of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee, after evaluation information has been received by the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Ad Hoc Subcommittee and publicly presented for discussion to the extent advised by Town Counsel.