The Lincoln School and the Ballfield Road campus grew over time between 1948 and 1994. This growth occurred occurred most rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s as the post-WWII “baby-boom” generation reached school age. The last major addition to the campus occurred in 1994, connecting the Smith and Brooks buildings to create a unified K-8 school. The configuration of the campus evolved organically as parcels of land were added to the original school campus. Now, as a community, we have the opportunity to create a holistic plan for the campus. Between the work of the School Building Committee (SBC) and the Community Center Preliminary Planning & Design Committee (PPDC), every aspect of the Ballfield campus is under consideration: the Lincoln School, preschool programs, after school programs, a potential facility for both the Parks & Recreation Department and the Council on Aging, playing fields, roadways, walking and bike paths, and parking.
Lincoln School Studies
Ballfield Campus Studies
The last major renovation of the Lincoln School was in 1994. That project, subsidized by state funding, provided new Kindergarten, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms, added a library to link the Smith School to the Brooks School, and included partial renovations of the Smith School. New classrooms allowed the School Committee to shift all school programs and classes to the main school building on Ballfield Road, thus accomplishing one of its core goals. The new construction afforded the community the opportunity to reuse the Pods and Hartwell building for preschool classes, school administrative offices, the Parks & Recreation Department, and the Lincoln Extended After-school Program, as well as a meeting space for other community organizations.
The 1994 project solved some of the facilities needs but did not address all of the issues at the Lincoln School. The Smith School heating plant remained in a basement location, with high ground water, subject to significant and frequent flooding. The electrical system was not fully upgraded, putting stress on an outdated system as the demand for more power to support the introduction of technology grew, and only some of the single-pane, wood-framed exterior windows and wall units were replaced. The Brooks School was not renovated, and the project did not add a proposed cafeteria and kitchen.
In 2001 and 2002 the school department experienced a significant financial failure requiring multiple “Proposition 2-1/2” overrides to support the operating budget, and regular and preventative maintenance came to a halt. The School Committee, working with the Finance Committee and Capital Planning Committee, began to gain on a backlog of facilities needs through the annual maintenance and capital planning process.
In 2003, the Capital Planning Committee requested that the School Committee conduct a facilities needs assessment to support future capital projects. Following a study by LPBA Architects, the School Committee convened the Lincoln Campus Facilities Committee which recommended a more complete facilities assessment and master plan for the school campus.
In April 2006, the School Committee hired Symmes, Maini and McKee Associates (SMMA) to develop a Facilities Master Plan, and in September 2007, SMMA issued the master plan report to the School Committee. The School Committee shared the plan, which offered solutions ranging from $35M to $65M, with the community at the 2008 Town Meeting.
The SMMA Master Plan was used in the succeeding years as the basis for capital projects at the School. While these local efforts were underway, the State reorganized the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to support school repair, renovation, and new construction. Under the new MSBA, school projects are assessed based on specific criteria, and the State partners with towns with the greatest needs for school improvements. The School Committee, with approval by the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI) describing the facilities needs of the Lincoln School in November 2008. In September 2009, the MSBA invited Lincoln to participate in the Feasibility Study Process, the first step in identifying an educationally sound, fiscally responsible solution to the School’s needs for the next 50 years. At the March 2010 Annual Town Meeting and election, the community authorized funds ($650,000) to conduct the Feasibility Study, and the MSBA agreed to reimburse Lincoln for 37% of this cost.
The School Committee established a School Building Committee in the spring of 2010, and hired Skanska USA as the Town’s Owner’s Project Manager and OMR Architects as the designer. Over the next two-and-a-half years, the School Building Committee conducted the Feasibility Study in accordance with MSBA guidelines, and the project was brought to a Special Town Meeting bonding vote in November 2012. A majority of those attending the Lincoln Town Meeting voted to fund the project, but the vote fell short of the 2/3 majority required for bonding. As a result of the failed vote, the Town forfeited the MSBA funding it had been offered. The School Committee and Board of Selectmen again submitted a Statement of Interest to the MSBA in the spring of 2013, but the Town was not invited into the MSBA’s funding pipeline.
After the 2012 vote, the School Committee worked with the community to understand the reasons it did not fully support the project. From this outreach came several key lessons:
- The community wanted a better understanding of the connection between renovation and the District’s educational vision.
- The Town cherishes the physical setting of the school and wanted to ensure that a project retained the character of the ballfield and site.
- The Town wanted to validate that we were not excluding more cost conscious approaches to achieving our educational vision and facility needs.
- An open, inclusive process is of paramount importance.
The School Committee took these lessons and used them as the foundation for the creation of the School Building Advisory Committee (SBAC). The SBAC was jointly appointed by the School Committee and the Town Moderator. Members were explicitly chosen to mirror the range of viewpoints that were expressed about the prior project in an effort to ensure that all concerns were fairly represented. The committee’s charge was to analyze the work that had been done to date, and to consider a full range of options from Town-funded repairs to seeking the support of the MSBA for a comprehensive renovation project.
Because the SBAC’s engagement with the community was beginning to build initial consensus, the School Committee and Board of Selectmen agreed that it would be premature to submit an SOI in 2014. Instead, the School Committee sponsored a warrant at the 2014 Town Meeting that asked for funds to hire a consultant to create a range of concepts and preliminary cost estimates. The community approved the funding, and in July 2014, the SBAC hired the firm of Dore & Whittier to complete the next phase of work. The SBAC and Dore & Whittier focused on several tasks:
- Help the community understand the connection between a building and educational vision.
- Identify and prioritize individual repairs, code upgrades, and educational space improvements.
- Create logical project concepts ranging from minimal repair to comprehensive renovation.
- Engage the public, incorporate the feedback, and report back to the Town.
Over the course of twelve months, the SBAC and Dore & Whittier held over 50 public meetings, and conducted 5 well-attended public forums, including a presentation at the 2014 State of the Town Meeting.
Three families of options were developed: 1) Family 1, “Repair Family,” consisted of immediate repair needs and required code compliance; 2) Family 2, “à la Carte Renovations,” included limited renovation choices which covered the Family 1 work and added a series of “à la carte” educational space improvements; 3) Family 3, “Comprehensive Renovation,” addressed all identified facilities and educational needs.
This work established that a Town investment of at least $30M would be required for a project that moved beyond repair and code compliance. During several community forums (including the 2014 State of the Town), when participants were asked to pick the type of project they preferred, there was consistent feedback that a project should 1) make all the necessary repairs; and 2) improve the building’s ability to support the educational program.
At the 2015 Annual Town Meeting, the School Committee asked the Town several questions:
- Was the feedback reliable? Did the Town really support a renovation project versus just making repairs?
- Did the Town understand that renovations would require a taxpayer contribution of at least $30M?
- Did the Town believe that it should re-apply to the MSBA? If so, would it set aside $750K for a Feasibility Study?
The Town voted overwhelmingly to support a more comprehensive renovation, to re-apply to the MSBA, and to set aside $750K to use for a new feasibility study if invited into the MSBA funding pipeline.
Based on the votes at the March 2015 Town Meeting, the Town re-applied to the MSBA. Later that year Lincoln learned that was not invited back by the MSBA. After getting input at the March 2016 Town Meeting, the Town again applied to the MSBA in 2016. In December 2016, the Town learned that it would not be part of the MSBA process.
Based on a number of factors, the School Committee asked the March 2017 Annual Town Meeting to approve going forward with a building project that would be funded solely by the Town. This required a vote to release the $750K that had been set aside in 2015 so that it could be used for a new feasibility study. The School Committee’s reasons included:
- The Lincoln School’s building systems are at increasing risk of failure, and the fiscally responsible approach is to address the deficiencies with a thoughtfully planned project.
- In addition to supporting high-quality teaching, the School Committee is committed to a learning environment that supports the educational vision.
- The considerable community engagement over the past five years has led to a growing consensus that a school project is one of the Town’s top priorities.
Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved moving forward with planning for a Town-funded project, and the current School Building Committee was appointed in May 2017.
Other Campus Studies
Community Center Study Group (CCSG): In addition to the work that has been done to understand the need and scope of a Lincoln School project, the Town has been exploring the idea of building a Community Center facility that would house both the Parks & Recreation Department and the Council on Aging. The Community Center Study Group presented information at the 2015 State of the Town Meeting about five potential sites, and their related costs, in town. Residents who attended and voted on a location chose the Ballfield Campus as the preferred location.
Campus Master Planning Committee (CMPC): To build on the work of the CCS and understand the implications for infrastructure on the campus, the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen recommended the appointment of a Campus Master Planning Committee to study the basic infrastructure and physical layout of the Ballfield campus. This concept and $75,000 were approved by voters at the 2015 Annual Town Meeting. The funds were used to retain architectural, engineering, and other consulting support. The study indicated that the Lincoln School and Community Center functions could all “fit” on the campus with holistic
Community Center Planning & Preliminary Design Committee (PPDC): The information from the CMPC’s report and the expressed desire of the community to explore the concept of a Community Center on the Ballfield campus led to the current work of the Community Center Planning and Preliminary Design Committee (PPDC). The PPDC, which is under the guidance of the Board of Selectmen and in collaboration with the School Building Committee, worked to advance the planning of a Community Center to the next stage. This included further definition of the program, the development of a range of site plans, preliminary design development, and more refined cost estimates. It collaborated with the School Building Committee to ensure the appropriate alignment of decision points and milestones, so that the works was considered within the context of a Lincoln School project and the Ballfield campus.
Campus Coordination Group: Communication between the SBC and the PPDC was been formalized by the the creation of a Campus Coordination Group that was made up of three members from each committee. Its purpose was: 1) administrative coordination to ensure an open line of communication between the two committees; 2) to look at the important milestones for each committee, and determine when, and for what purpose, there should be joint meetings and public outreach sessions; 3) to coordinate communication to the wider community; and 4) to prepare for major Town decision points.