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School Committee Supports Estabrook Design Concept (POLL)

The School Committee approved a design concept for a three-story Estabrook School. The proposal will now go before the Massachusetts School Building Authority -- and to voters who will be asked to vote on debt exclusion in January.

A new likely would be a three-story building with a north-south orientation and glass staircases that carry natural light deep inside the elementary school.

This design concept, endorsed by the School Department, Permanent Building Committee and now the School Committee, has a smaller footprint than other options and a price tag between about $39 and $42.8 million, according to DiNisco Design Partnership, the Boston-based architectural firm working on the project.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, the School Committee’s vote to sign off on this design concept garnered some light applause from a small audience, which was supportive of the design but inquisitive about the payment plan.

The approval was the latest step in the process following the .

At that time, school officials submitted an emergency statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to replace Estabrook. The school can stay in use until 2014 under a plan submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency to control polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure until a long-term solution is reached.

“Tonight is the one major point that we need to move forward to convey our schematic design to MSBA” in February, said Donna DiNisco, a representative from the architectural firm.

After the School Committee’s stamp of approval on Tuesday, Lexington voters will have at least some idea about the end product of the school project they’ll be ask to support in a debt exclusion vote at a Jan. 24 special election. Joining Estabrook on the .

A Nov. 14 special Town Meeting backed the Bridge and Bowman renovation plans, which will cost the town $20 million and change. Town Meeting will be asked to do the same for Estabrook, most likely at some point during annual Town Meeting in April.

According to School Committee member Margaret Coppe, the unusual circumstances around financing the Estabrook project are due to a tight MSBA timeline that’s tied to the PCB issues.

Coppe also said officials are “very confident” about receiving reimbursement from the MSBA for Estabrook and the funding floor starts at about 30 percent.

Listing some positives of the preferred design, members of the School Committee, Permanent Building Committee and design team lauded the layout’s educational programming potential, site flexibility, segregated service areas and safe avenue from the schools to the playfields.

The current design is for the building will be built to a LEED Silver certification, according Ken DiNisco, the firm’s president and principal, who said the building could be oriented in such a way to allow for future implementation of photovoltaic panels, should the town pursue it.

As for what would happen if the debt exclusion and or Town Meeting votes fail to pass, Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash said he fully expects Lexington residents will support this project, but admitted crazier things have happened.

The short answer, he said, is that the town will have to spend the money to build a new school or, at worst, remediate the PCBs, which would be almost as expensive.

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