Published October 9, 2019


LYNNFIELD — Local officials are hoping to have a recommendation on addressing elementary school space needs by March, DPW Director John Tomasz told the School Committee last week.

School Enrollment and Capacity Exploration Committee (SECEC) Chairman John Scenna recalled that the space committee was formed last year in the wake of a recent increase in enrollment at the elementary schools. The SECEC hired the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) to conduct an enrollment study last year.

“We spent most of 2018 analyzing statistics,” said Scenna.

After the SECEC evaluated the enrollment report NESDEC compiled, Scenna said Superintendent Jane Tremblay analyzed how the school enrollment projections would fit into existing classrooms at the elementary schools. There are 25 classrooms at Summer Street School, two of which are preschool classrooms. There are 24 classrooms at Huckleberry Hill School.

“The committee met after analyzing all of this and decided to stay the course for the coming year,” said Scenna. “We decided to start focusing on the capacity piece of our mission.”

Scenna said the town has issued a request for proposals (RFP) in order to solicit bids from architectural firms that will be tasked with studying the two elementary schools’ capacity.

“We are looking at studying the capacity of the two elementary schools and at the potential for expansion, whether that be through traditional additions or modular additions,” said Scenna. “We are towards the end of that procurement process.”

Scenna said Tremblay will be giving NESDEC the district’s final enrollment figures for the 2019-2020 school year this fall.

“We will take that information and plug it into the model,” said Scenna. “We will be able to get better results in terms of projections moving forward. We believed last spring that even though the numbers are getting tighter, we still have a buffer going into the 2020-2021 school year.”

Scenna noted Lynnfield Middle School and Lynnfield High School have enough space to accommodate increasing enrollment.

“Our secondary campuses appear to be okay and there is a chance our elementary campuses could get tight,” said Scenna. “That is why we are focusing on capacity while we really fine tune what many refer to as weather forecasting. We know that weather forecasters are not always right.”

DPW Director Tomasz said the deadline for architectural firms to submit bids for the RFP is Friday, Oct. 18.

“There have been 29 firms who have expressed interest,” said Tomasz. “I don’t imagine all 29 will submit, but it’s a good number to have. There is definitely a lot of interest.”

Scenna agreed.

“I am looking forward to working with whoever wins this procurement process,” said Scenna. “What we are going to do is bring two architectural firms to the entire committee. The RFP has several guidelines that firms have to meet. We will rank them in an organized manner and we will come up with the top two based on the interviews we have and based on their proposals. We will bring them to the committee and select one that we will be working with moving forward.”

Scenna said the space committee’s goal is to recommend the two finalists during a late October meeting.

Tomasz said the SECEC hopes the winning firm will have a recommendation to the town in March just in case a proposal needs to be presented to April Town Meeting.

“In a nutshell, these firms are going to come in and take a look at the schools and see what can be done either inside of the schools or outside of the schools,” said Tomasz.

“How close to capacity are we?” asked School Committee member Phil McQueen.

Tremblay said Huckleberry Hill School is currently utilizing 22 classrooms this year. She said Summer Street School has two classrooms available that are currently being used for special education and tutoring programs.

“Huckleberry’s fourth grade class has five classes moving on and the current third grade has four classes, so that would be a wash,” said Tremblay. “Summer Street has two extra classrooms that are being used for special education and tutoring services, but we can certainly change those back into classrooms if we need to.”

Tremblay noted projecting school enrollment is challenging.

“We have said all along it’s hard to predict what is coming down the pike,” said Tremblay. “We never would have anticipated that we had close to 40 move-ins at Huckleberry this summer. It just came fast and furiously. There is no way to predict that.”

Scenna echoed Tremblay’s viewpoint.

“It’s more than just looking at the kindergarten class,” said Scenna. “It’s making sure that kindergarten class can transition as a grade. It’s also looking at the move-ins and move-outs from grade-to-grade.”

School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman noted the School Department has expanded its programs and services in the elementary schools.

“There is more need for space to do other stuff besides just classroom teaching,” said Hayman. “I am excited to see where this ends up and I’m glad to hear we will be in a position to make some decisions next spring.”

Scenna agreed.

“Every projection that we have made maintains music and art in their own separate classrooms in each school,” he said.