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Tag: Educational Vision

Special Town Meeting – March 28th

In the wake of the February 12 meeting when the SBC had to cut $3.5M of scope out of the project to keep it on time and on budget, the SBC met this past Monday morning to discuss options.  At that meeting, the SBC voted to pursue funding for the restoration of key project elements.  

This vote launched a round of communication with the School Committee, Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee to request, and plan, for a Special Town Meeting to be held on the same day as the Annual Town Meeting (March 28).  Following is a set of FAQs that provide an overview of where we are and how we got here.  In addition, please mark your calendars for a Community Forum on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30pm, Hartwell Multipurpose Room.

Lincoln School ProjectSpecial Town Meeting, March 28, 2020FAQs

The Lincoln School project will transform our educational and community spaces.  The project is the first net zero school renovation of its kind in the state.  And the recent need to remove $3.5M from the scope of the project does not change what it will achieve.  Throughout the design process, the School Building Committee (SBC) has used the community’s five core project goals to stay focused on what is important and to guide us through difficult decisions. Those goals are: 

  1. support innovative education
  2. prioritize the environment and sustainability
  3. enhance the use of the school as a community resource
  4. respect the feel and history of the campus
  5. make decisions that have long-term value

All along, as we went through the value engineering (VE) process, the SBC achieved necessary reductions in the project without impinging on those core values. But the need to reduce the construction budget by $3.5M as a result of the construction bid process has impacted aspects of the project that the SBC has worked hard to protect.  

We did not believe that we would ever be in a position to have to compromise core values to keep the project within budget. The SBC promised a fully renovated, educationally transformative net zero school for $93.9M, which we have achieved.  In this last round of value engineering, the SBC had to reduce or eliminate some items that we know are important to many members of the community, such as: Bike paths/walkways; playground equipment; outdoor learning and community spaces; optimization of natural daylight (reduced interior glass and the exterior sun controls for classrooms); tree replacement; new furniture and technology infrastructure that supports our building’s innovative learning environment.

The timing of the bid process did not afford sufficient time to fully consider the implications on the project within our annual budget and planning cycle leading up to Town Meeting. The Special Town Meeting is the community’s opportunity to decide whether some or all elements will be restored.

When is the Special Town Meeting?

The same day as the Annual Town Meeting:  Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 9:30am.

Why is the Special Town Meeting on the same day as the Annual Town Meeting?

The warrant closed on January 26, and the only way to consider a new item is to call a Special Town Meeting.  On February 24, at the request of the School Committee, the Board of Selectmen voted to call a Special Town Meeting for the purpose of considering additional capital requests for the Lincoln School building project.

What is being decided at the Special Town Meeting?

Residents will consider approving items that the SBC has prioritized.  About $2M in additional funds is required to reinstate key features of the school project that had to be eliminated to close the gap between the final estimates and the actual construction bids. The SBC is exploring options that use existing Free Cash and/or Stabilization funds.

Why did the bids come in over budget?

  • Escalation: re-bid cost estimates included an “escalation contingency” of about 6%. According to our project team, the annualized industry escalation rate in January and February has been closer to 8%. Complexity:  Our project is a complex renovation that will create cohesion in a building complex that was built in 11 phases over almost 50 years. When we set the budget in June 2018, the design and drawings were 20% complete.  As we progressed through Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documents stages, we learned more about existing conditions and about the work needed to achieve our community’s goals.  We received three independent cost estimates at the end of each phase:
    • Before the bond vote in December 2018, the SBC reduced the scope of the project by about $10M.  As the project went on, we had three more rounds of cost estimates and two more rounds of value engineering, which further reduced the scope of the project by about $4M.  The last VE exercise before the project went out to bid in December cut $1.5M to keep the project on budget. As we went through those exercises, the SBC felt confident about how the building would look and perform for the next 30-plus years. Unlike the VE reductions in other phases, the size of this most recent estimate and budget gap left the SBC with little discretion about what to remove. We were forced to make cuts that impact our project values.
    • There are many new construction projects out there (schools, commercial buildings, and housing) which are more predictable and straightforward.  Contractors have their choice of work, and new construction is more attractive.
  • Lower Bid Response:  This renovation complexity contributed to a lower-than-hoped-for bid response.  While the SBC pre-approved 109 sub-trade contractors, just over half chose to submit bids.
    • Didn’t we know all of that before we went out to bid? We built in contingency and escalation factors that were slightly higher than industry norms, but as our construction manager Consigli noted, you don’t really know what the cost will be until “the market speaks to you.” The cost and complexity of renovating an existing building to meet our education and net zero goals, while competing with new construction projects in nearby towns, has proven to be more expensive than expected.

What about going forward? What are the cost controls?

  • Guaranteed Maximum Price:  After March 28, when we have the final word from the community about what will be included in the project, the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) will be set.  This price covers all the work that is in the bid documents and there is shared responsibility between the contractor (Consigli) and the owner (Town of Lincoln) to meet that price.
  • Contingencies: A construction contingency of 2.5% is carried by Consigli and 5% is carried by the Town.  These contingencies are meant to conservatively account for the kinds of routine events that can occur in a project (for example, if drawings need slight modification to respond to an existing condition, or if additional work is needed to implement the modification).  
  • What is or is not covered, and who is responsible? (some examples)
    • If a subcontractor makes a mistake, the cost of fixing the mistake is borne by Consigli (for example, the workmanship is not of the quality specified, or if materials are damaged).
    • If the Town wants changes to the project after the GMP is set, it comes out of our contingency (for example, if we choose a different material for the floors, or if we require additional outlets in a classroom).
    • If there is a high-impact unforeseen situation that is outside the realm of the contingency (for example, if as we excavate, we discover dinosaur bones, uranium, or oil), then we either need to value engineer more items out of the project to stay on budget or explore our options with the Town.
  • Are we confident that there is enough contingency built into the project? Yes. The SBC has asked this question many times and in as many ways it can think of, and the project team says that we have built in enough contingency.

What is on the warrant?

  • About $2M of priority items related to the educational program, quality of the interior and exterior environment, community use of the building and the campus, and the long-term value of our investment. The SBC and the Finance Committee are discussing whether this request will come forward as one or more motions.  The SBC will update the community as soon as that information is finalized.
  • Funds from the Cable Revolving Fund to be used for technology upgrades in the Auditorium (note: This is not a new request.  Originally this was on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.  It has been moved to the STM to keep all project-related items together.)

Budget Update

We are pleased to report that we’ve completed value engineering (VE) for the “90% Construction Document” phase. Our school building project remains on time and within budget. The next steps (proceeding through December) include finalizing plans and the 100% Construction Document drawings (Bid Documents) in preparation for soliciting sub-trade bids.  

Just as we did at the end of the “60% Construction Document” phase in September, the SBC made a number of difficult but necessary tradeoffs to keep the project on budget and to ensure we are getting the best value for our money. As they have been at each phase, decisions were guided by our project values: transform the educational environment, make the building net zero, recognize the school as a community asset, ensure that decisions are based on long-term value.

Our project is very complex and these cost deliberations are not always easy or straightforward.  For example, originally the project specified permeable pavement for the access road behind the school because the access road is in the wetland buffer zone and permeable pavement would allow water to percolate back into the soil.  However, after discussions with our Conservation Commission and the City of Cambridge (we are in the watershed for Cambridge’s supply, so it is within their purview to review site plans that impact the watershed), it was agreed that more conventional pavement is preferable in case of a spilled contaminant. Not only was this change better for protecting the wetlands and watershed, it, along with some other site work refinements, saved $167K in the construction budget.

Other VE decisions included:

  • Changing the size of ceiling panels in the Dining Commons from 2’ x 8’ to 2’ x 2’ ($41K)
  • Simplifying the roof blocking plan for all sloped roof eaves ($69K)
  • Changing the type of coat cubby that will be installed for grades K-2 (out of a total of $141K, took an $81K reduction from construction budget, kept $30K for installation, and put $30K into the furniture/fixtures budget)
  • Reducing the scope of kitchen equipment that needs to have an exhaust system ($8.5K)

In addition, several items were put on an “add-alternate” list. These are items that will be added back into the project if bids are favorable and/or there are contingency dollars left at the end of the project:

  • New divider for the Auditorium (separates the Lecture Hall from the rest of the Auditorium)
  • Roof screens to hide HVAC mechanical equipment.
  • 1/2 basketball court outside Reed Gym

From Superintendent Becky McFall

PROJECT UPDATE: Temporary Parking Lot Paving

Aggregate Industries was recently on site to review the porous paving operation for the temporary parking lot and sidewalks around the modular building. What to expect during the paving:

  • 2-3 trucks/per hour with an expected total of 15-20 trucks a day
    • Delivery of asphalt during the hours of school drop off and pick up is prohibited
    • Trucks will be timed so they are not staged on Ballfield Road.
  • Consigli Construction will be utilizing 4 parking spots in front of the Smith entrance alongside the field for the asphalt truck while they are paving the sidewalk along the West portion of the site. Barrels and signage will be installed for clear notification of which spots will be utilized. 
  • If you are travelling to or from the Ballfield Road campus while school is in session, you should expect the possibility of delays due to increased truck traffic.

Preschool Students At Work! (reprinted with permission from the October 23rd Superintendent’s Bulletin)

A Look Inside…

…at Plans for the Interior

At this Wednesday’s SBC meeting (January 23rd, 7:00pm, Hartwell multipurpose room), the SBC will spend the bulk of the meeting reviewing updated floor plans, interior design, and interior materials.

3rd Grade Hub as of December 2018

Cost Check: After the December vote, Consigli came on board as our Construction Manager. Since then, they have been examining the building and working with SMMA and Daedalus to understand the details of the project. In the past couple of weeks, Consigli conducted their own cost estimate based on the Schematic Design documents.  This was an independent estimate of the construction costs, which they then reconciled with SMMA and Daedalus. Consigli’s estimate will be reviewed at Wednesday’s SBC meeting.

Managing the Process: In addition to the School Committee, SBC and school administration, town administration and multiple boards and committees are involved in some aspect of the project. A “chairs” meeting took place on January 14th to bring together SMMA, Daedalus, and representatives of Town entities to ensure that permitting efforts are coordinated and communication is efficient. The meeting included representation from town and school administration, the SBC, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, Conservation Committee, Planning Board, Green Energy Committee, and the Historical Commission. 

Meeting Reminder

The SBC’s first meeting of 2019 is tomorrow night (Wednesday, January 9th) at 7:00pm, Hartwell multipurpose room. It is a full agenda!

As a reminder, SBC agendas can always be found by using the link on the left hand side of the www.lincolnsbc.org home page (scroll down a bit), or by going to the School Committee section of the Lincoln Public Schools’ website.

This is a Community Project

Over the past 19 months, the Lincoln School project has been forged by the willingness of residents with a wide range of values, priorities, expertise, opinions, and viewpoints to come together to try to collaboratively solve an incredibly complex problem. The goal of the SBC has been to create a process and a platform for individual ideas to be heard and to give direction to its work. In June, we presented 5 viable ways to move forward, and our community made a group decision, in an unprecedented way, about which project best balanced those priorities and delivered the most value for the investment.

At the end of that Special Town Meeting, an overwhelming majority chose the project known as “L3.” The clarity of the vote was due to the fact that many people, with many ideas, were willing to passionately champion their values while demonstrating their willingness to compromise; finding a balance among multiple needs and interests.

The result is a project that is a reflection of resident values; it is “ours,” as a town, in every sense of the word.

What did it take to get to this point?

When we started this process, many challenged us to go beyond a school that is “safe, warm, and dry” and to focus on transforming the educational environment. They noted that the neighborhood model of classrooms, which supports how our educators teach (with future flexibility), would be easiest to achieve in a new, more compact building – not one with classrooms strung out along a long corridor.

Many residents focused on the opportunity to live up to the green energy goals LIncoln set for itself a decade ago, when the town voted to adopt a fossil fuel reduction standard for its public buildings. They focused our attention on “energy use intensity,” the importance of a well-insulated building, new heating & cooling technologies, and the need to generate electricity on site in order to further reduce our carbon footprint. This would be easiest to achieve with new construction.

Others drew our attention to the deep historical ties the town has to the Ballfield Road site. It was the home of the Lincoln Mohawks baseball team in the first half of the 20th century, and where the town regularly gathered in the grand stands. The Lincoln School itself was designed by two Lincoln-resident modern architects, Lawrence Anderson and Henry Hoover. They helped transform school architecture by providing ample access to natural light, connections to the outdoors, and moveable (dare we say flexible?) furniture that wasn’t bolted to the floor. Many residents saw the important connection of the current building to our town’s history, and wanted to ensure that we re-used as much of it as possible and preserved the integrity of the campus.

The Lincoln School is an important center of the community, and many emphasized its role in our recreational and civic life. They placed a high value on retaining both of our full-sized gyms and the Auditorium.

And everyone wanted to ensure that the project would provide good long-term value for the up-front cost – while being mindful of the immediate impact on the community.

As is quickly apparent, it is not easy to reconcile all of these priorities – but there was a lot of determination! As a result of the creativity of our design team and our committee, and a high level of community participation in the process, we all decided that L3 did the best job of drawing all of those interests together.

On Saturday, we will come together to test that hypothesis.

We know that people will come to the meeting looking at the project through different lenses and their own set of experiences. While we all listen to the presentations and the ensuing debate, the following questions might serve as a framework:

  • What is the impact of our decision on future generations of educators and learners?
  • When we look back in 10 or 20 years, will we have made a wise choice?
  • Have we successfully balanced the values of our community? – Education, environmental stewardship, respect for our history and civic life, and fiscal responsibility?
  • What is the impact of our decision on other Town priorities?

Each of us may answer these questions in different ways. We look forward to a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation on Saturday.

Educational Value(s)…and Some Financial FAQs…

District Strategic Plan

Each year, with input from the community, the Lincoln School Committee and Administrative Team set strategic priorities for the district. These priorities guide professional development and collaboration in the Lincoln School and in the Hanscom Schools. Since the new Hanscom Middle School opened in 2016, the district has had the opportunity to see how a school designed around grade-level neighborhoods and flexible common spaces can support our educational priorities, and how it makes it easier for our teachers to engage in the kinds of collaborations that spark creative and engaging curriculum.

Our teachers are our best educational resource. The building and environment can make their work easier or harder. Below are some resources to learn more about the impact of the learning environment:

  • Want to read about some of the values articulated by our faculty? Visit our October 15, 2017 post, How Spaces Impact Learning.
  • The Industrial Age gave us the assembly line. It also instilled the philosophy that education — and the school buildings where learning happens — needed to mimic that style of design, with facilities built around long corridors that file students into boxlike classrooms filled with rows of desks…But in the 21st century, education is moving away from the assembly-line mentality, encouraging students to collaborate, work hands-on, explore their environment, and continually engage with fresh ideas.” —Excerpted from How Architecture Boosts 21st Century Learning published by the site “The T74,” a non-partisan, non-profit site covering education in America.
  • For more about hubs, revisit our June 3rd post, FAQs: Hubs & Code Compliance.
  • Visit the “Impact on Education” page of the SBC website to learn more, watch videos, etc.

Some Financial FAQs (with assistance from the Finance Committee & Town Finance Team)

I’ve seen that taxes would go up 17% – 19%. Would they keep going up by that much every year?
No. Paying for the bond is like making payments on a fixed rate, 30-year mortgage. The cost for the bond remains constant once it is fully added to the tax bill. However, unlike taking out a mortgage, the Town is likely to issue the bond in two “tranches” or pieces, that will mean the increase in taxes will likely be phased in over 3 years.

When would the project show up on my tax bill?
Based on the currently anticipated borrowing schedule, the first impact would occur in the tax bill for the second half of calendar year 2019.

Will it happen all at once?
No. Based on the currently anticipated borrowing schedule, about 45% of the total increase would appear on the tax bill for the 2nd half of calendar year 2019. That same amount would be included in both semi-annual tax bills of calendar year 2020, bringing that year’s added payments to 90% of the total increase. The two semi-annual added payments in calendar year 2021 would be slightly higher and add up to 95% of the total increase, and then the tax bills from calendar year 2022 onwards would have the full increase included. In other words, it will take about 3 years until we are paying the full “mortgage payment” on the school.

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