Town officials learned this week that the state has approved a plan for to move toward a rebuild, after last fall town and school administrators sought the go-ahead to do so after months of work on polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) remediation at the school.
In summer, officials discovered higher-than-recommended levels of PCBs in the air at the school, and began work to remove caulking and do other work to fix the problem. The work showed air samples were back within the recommended levels, however replacement of the building was seen as a long-term solution.
On Oct. 19, the School Committee authorized submittal of an emergency Statement of Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), seeking funding for the replacement of Estabrook.
At last night’s (Feb. 10) Budget Summit, Superintendent Paul Ash announced that on Wednesday MSBA had voted to approve working toward an Estabrook rebuild.
The estimated $30 million project will likely receive at least a 31 percent reimbursement from MSBA, Ash said, which could save the town about $9.3 million on the project.
The project could get up to 40 percent reimbursement from MSBA, under a formula where projects are awarded points for certain aspects, like using model school designs or meeting certain codes or criteria, Town Manager Carl Valente told Lexington Patch Friday morning.
"My understanding is, if we get all the extra points, it could go up to 40 percent," Valente said.
Valente also noted that the $30 million estimate for the school rebuild is a "back of the envelope" number, and the true cost will emerge during the design phase.
At Town Meeting, a warrant article will seek $1.25 million in design funds for the project, which would provide a timeline for the rebuild, project design and cost estimate.
Of that $1.25 million, if approved, $200,000 would be used to design road access to the building site (on the Estabrook field behind the school), from Robinson Road, so construction vehicles could access the building site without disrupting traffic at the entrance to the school, Valente said.
Thursday night, Board of Selectmen Chairman Hank Manz thanked Ash for providing the information, and said he was pleased with the outcome.
“There were 1,000 ways this could have come unglued, and it has not,” he said.
Ash also noted the rarity of MSBA approving emergency SOIs.
Districts typically submit SOIs for school renovation or replacement projects during the standard period, in spring, however the PCB situation at Estabrook warranted submittal of an emergency SOI to the MSBA, school officials said this fall.
Estabrook had been slated on the facilities master plan for replacement beginning in 2014, however that master plan was revised this fall, and the Estabrook project moved forward in the timeline, with school officials hopeful that with state approval of the emergency SOI, the rebuilt could begin in 2012.
Valente said 2012 is likely a good estimate for when building may begin.
"It'll take about a year to do the design and bidding," he said. "It's very likely construction could begin in 2012."
(Editor's Note: In a press release sent to Lexington Patch on Monday, Feb. 14, the MSBA notes that Estabrook will move into the MSBA's capital pipeline for potential funding. The next phase is a feasibility study, during which Lexington and MSBA officials will work to study potential solutions to the problems identified in the district’s Statement of Interest.)