Questions and opposition were scarce Monday night as a special session of Lexington Town Meeting voted in favor of funding a $21.67 million project to renovate the Bridge and Bowman elementary schools.
The Nov. 14 vote was the second time Town Meeting has supported the Bridge and Bowman project, as $1,030,000 of the $22.7 million total project cost was appropriated in a prior session.
Now, members of the schools community will focus their efforts on getting the project passed at the polls this January at a special town election, which could also see a debt exclusion request for more than $37 million for a new Estabrook School after the Massachusetts School Building Authority agreed to work with the town to rebuild after last year's discovery of PCBs.
“We’re very pleased that Town Meeting voted again to support the Bridge and Bowman renovation projects and now the work begins to work hard on the debt exclusion,” School Committee Chairwoman Mary Ann Stewart said Monday night. “We will be working hard to see that the project is passed by the voters in town.”
According to Stewart, the “Yes for Our Schools” campaign is officially underway and has a Facebook page, which folks can “Like” to access updates and videos showing school conditions, like a 40-year-old boiler.
“Voters should begin to become informed,” said Stewart. “I’m sure once we get rolling there will be opportunities to meet in various settings and there will be a campaign kickoff at some point, so more information will be forthcoming.”
After Stewart’s presentation to Town Meeting—which included details about escalating project costs, the prospects of reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and anticipated impact on taxpayers—members of other town boards took turns speaking in favor of the Bridge and Bowman projects.
The Capital Expenditures, Appropriation, Permanent Buildings and, of course, the School committees all voted to back the project, as did the Board of Selectmen.
Speaking for the Capital Expenditures Committee, David Kanter said his board believes it’s important to provide, in a timely manner, equal opportunity to education for all elementary school students.
The best way to do that, he said, is to support this proposal because Hastings School would be the next priority after Estabrook, meaning it would take at least a decade before the town could reasonably rebuild Bridge and/or Bowman, which have been described as structurally sound with failing systems.
Representatives from the Appropriation and Permanent Building committees expressed similar sentiments. Four of the town’s five selectmen also endorsed this project, with the lone dissenter being Peter Kelley, who would prefer to see new schools built.