Local News and Letters to the Editor

  • Letter to the Editor – We write today to introduce the “Yes for Lexington” campaign...

    Dear fellow Lexingtonians,

    On Monday December 4, Lexington voters will go to the polls to decide whether to pass a “debt exclusion” to pay for three building projects: the Maria Hastings Elementary School, Lexington Children’s Place (LCP) public preschool, and the fire station headquarters. We write today to introduce the “Yes for Lexington” campaign, mobilized to help inform voters about these projects and advocate for their completion. These vital facilities are all currently operating in substandard buildings. Investing in these projects will improve the education system and public safety for all of Lexington.

    Hastings is the oldest school building in town. There are numerous structural and physical issues with the building; read more at www.yes4lex.org. Importantly, the new building will be nine classrooms larger, allowing for overcrowding relief at other Lexington elementary schools.

    LCP is the state-mandated integrated public preschool, delivering services to children who qualify for special education, alongside “typically developing” peers. In 2015, the LCP outgrew the rooms it occupies in Harrington, requiring a portion of its programming to be moved to the Central Administration Building until a permanent solution could be found. That solution is a new building on Pelham Road. Moving LCP will free up four classrooms at Harrington, further relieving town-wide elementary overcrowding.

    The Bedford Street Fire Station Headquarters has been recommended for replacement since 1993 and is beyond the point of repair or renovation. Replacement is the only option if we are to accommodate today's heavy equipment, call volumes, and training and education needs. We can no longer delay meeting this critical community need.

    To learn more, please attend a campaign coffee (“Events” at www.yes4lex.org) or our kickoff event at the Depot, on November 1 from 7-9pm.

    Sincerely,

    Kathleen Lenihan (Bloomfield St.) and Nicola Rinaldi (Garfield St.)

    Yes for Lexington Co-Chairs

     

  • Lexington Minuteman – New building in sight for Lexington’s Hastings Elementary?

    New building in sight for Lexington’s Hastings Elementary?

    By Weihua Li

    Posted Oct 10, 2017 at 12:33 PM

    The Maria Hastings Elementary School may soon get closer to securing the necessary funding to demolish and reconstruct its 62-year-old building, which parents and school leaders say is sorely needed.

    At Lexington Special Town Meeting on Oct. 16, voters will decide whether the town will approve $63 million for the project, up to 35 percent of which would be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). If Town Meeting approves the funds, Lexington voters will head to the polls in December to approve a temporary tax increase—called a debt exclusion—to pay off bonds issued to cover the cost of the project, design work for a new home for the Lexington Children’s Place preschool program, design work for a new fire station and funds to build a temporary fire station.

    “We are really trying to kill two birds with one stone,” said Kathryn Colburn, a member of the Lexington School Committee.

    Hastings, the town’s oldest elementary school, would finally see its “old, deteriorating” facility replaced, she said. Moreover, the new building would add nine classrooms to the district, easing the pressure on other over-capacity schools.

    Room for more students

    The new school building, if approved at Town Meeting and in the December vote, would have 30 classrooms, increasing the school’s enrollment capacity from 430 to 645 students, making Hastings School the largest elementary school in Lexington.

    As a district, Lexington’s enrollment continues to grow at a rate of 2 to 2.5 percent per year, Lexington Superintendent of Schools Mary Czajkowski said.

    Out of the district’s six elementary schools, the Bridge Elementary School and Bowman Elementary School are beyond capacity, Czajkowski said. With the Hastings reconstruction plan, officials are trying to project long-term enrollment and to adapt to the growth, she added.

    In an effort to “build a building that will take us into the future for at least 50 years,” Colburn said the new school’s design highlights environmental issues; currently scheduled for completion by February 2020, the building will not use fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

    “We are trying to be as cost-effective as possible with the design,” Colburn added. “It would be an attractive building, and it would have all the features we need to deliver the educational program, but it’s not going to be luxurious by any means. We are really trying to keep the cost as manageable as possible for the community.”

    Many problems with building

    The Hastings School, built in 1955, is the last of six elementary school buildings in Lexington to be renovated or replaced, according to a Statement of Interest that the school district submitted to MSBA in 2015 for state funding.

    In the same document, officials listed several of the school’s shortcomings, including eight modular classrooms that have exceeded their useful lives, inadequate space for special education, and a 170-square-foot nurse’s office that is “unhealthy” to house more than one sick child.

    During Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment system (MCAS) tests, to provide quiet testing areas for small groups and individual students, school staff members have to use a number of classrooms and administrative offices, including the psychologists’ office, according to the document.

    “Essentially, what happened is that we are trying to provide a 2017 education in a 1955 building,” Colburn said.

    Nicola Rinaldi, the co-president of the Maria Hastings Parent Teacher Organization and a mother of three, said she hopes her youngest two kids, who are in third grade kindergarten now, will get to experience the new Hastings school building in 2020. Among other benefits, she noted, the new building is designed to have air conditioning.

    “A teacher recently recorded 96 degrees in her class room,” said Rinaldi, who also co-chairs the campaign for the new school building. “We have kids who are trying to learn, but how can they focus on learning when they cannot stop thinking about how hot they are?”

    Space for special education students

    As a Hastings parent, Rinaldi said one of her main concerns with the current school building is that the infrastructure is simply too old.

    Most new features that would come with a new school building are not “nice to have,” Rinaldi said.

    “[They’re] necessary to have,”  she said.

    For example, although the current school building has a fire alarm system, it does not have sprinklers.

    While the Hastings School houses more than 30 students in the special education program, the school does not have enough space to accommodate kids with special emotional needs, Rinaldi said.

    “I’ve personally seen a kid working with a teacher in the hallway,” Rinaldi said. “They had a table to sit at, but they are right out in the open, and there is no privacy. I could go on and on and on.”

    Czajkowski, Lexington’s superintendent, said Hastings is a safe school. However, while the town has maintained the school as well as possible, the lack of classroom space and other problems “are not up to the standards of what we expect here in Lexington,” Czajkowski said.

    “I believe that this particular school needs to be replaced, needs to meet the challenges students face not only in our regular classroom, but also in our special education classrooms,” Czajkowski said. “I have been in some of those classrooms, and they have been there for quite some time.”

     

  • Lexington Minuteman – Lexington fire chief praises new station design

    Lexington fire chief praises new station design

    By Matt Mallio

    Posted Aug 10, 2017 at 5:17 PM

    Lexington Fire Chief John Wilson said he approved of the new design direction of the proposed fire station. A new iteration of the project was presented before the town’s Permanent Building Committee Wednesday evening.

    “We love this design,” said Wilson after a presentation by Jeffrey McElravy of Tecton Architects at the Aug. 9 meeting.

    “The inside,” Wilson added. “It’s fabulous.”

    “It’s all about having the ability to train, indoors and outdoors,” said Wilson. This new design provides dedicated indoor and outdoor training areas as well as a three-story tower that can be used for training with ladders or simulate sprinklers, and other training exercises.

    “And that’s an important thing to have,” Wilson said.

    Energy-efficient design

    A large part of the current design centered around sustainability and energy efficiency. McElravy said that this current design was 30 percent more energy efficient than the standards put forth by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Condition Engineers, or ASHRAE.

    “When you do 30 percent better than that,” said McElravy, “you’re doing pretty darn good.”

    Lexington is in the midst of a drive to decrease its municipal buildings’ carbon footprint. Lexington’s current environmental standard is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Silver. In LEED certifications, building designs are awarded points as to how energy-efficient the building’s design is. McElravy said they will meet the Silver standard easily and possibly hit the next level, which is LEED Gold.

    The building, McElravy said, was an “all-electric” design which would have solar panels and a geothermal heating system. Architects were also looking into insulation and HVAC options for the building to help them achieve a design that would produce or conserve as much energy as it draws from the power grid.

    Next Steps

    Environmental concerns for the site revolved around wetlands, invasive species in the site as well as treatment for contaminated soil, if any. McElravy said designers also have had extensive discussions with engineers about how to manage stormwater.

    Committee Chair Jon Himmel asked for members of Sustainable Lexington be included in the discussion about sustainability.

    “We are looking to get a package out to our estimator so we can get an estimate to bring back to you in September,” said McElravy.

    Cost estimates are to be discussed in September meeting with the goal of including the project in the planned fall Town Meeting, scheduled for October.

  • How to write a letter

     

    Thank you for your interest in writing a letter to support the campaign.

    Not sure what to write? Members of the Communications team are happy to help you frame and/or edit your letter prior to submission.  Not even sure where to start?  We can share letters from past campaigns to provide you with inspiration.

    Running out of time? Please let Xiang Li (xiangli03@gmail.com) know as soon as possible if you are worried that you will miss your submission deadline so we can provide an alternate for your assigned edition.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns, and remember to ask your readers to vote YES FOR LEXINGTON on December 4, 2017!

    Sincerely,

    Xiang & the YES! Campaign Committee

     

    Some key messages to reinforce in your letter:

    • Every building considered in this vote is at least 60 years old.
    • Every building fails to meet the current building codes for its intended use.
    • Every building is too small to meet the needs of the town and the programs/activities it supports.

    Hastings

    • Was scheduled for reconstruction 6 years ago but by-passed due to urgency of Estabrook’s reconstruction needs.
    • Nearly a ⅓ of its current classrooms are *temporary* modulars that are 10-20 years old.
    • The gymnasium roof has had to be reinforced twice due to structural failures-- gym closed for 3 weeks during one repair period.
    • Suffered meaningful leaks in the majority of the classrooms two years ago.
    • Bathrooms not ADA compliant
    • No sprinkler system.
    • Is lynchpin of Lexington’s efforts to gain much needed capacity to relieve district-wide overcrowding.  New building will net 9 additional classrooms.

    Lexington Children's Place

    • The preschool is a state-mandated program.
    • The program has been Lexington’s “hot potato”— it has been relocated 14 times in 20 years.
    • Current program split between two buildings separated by 600’ and two parking lots.
    • Split building configuration is inefficient for both teachers and students.
    • Failure to meet rising enrollment in this program will trigger expensive out-of-district placements at an approximate cost of $100,000/out-placed student.
    • Relocating LCP to the Pelham Rd property will free up the space from 4 classrooms in Harrington, further relieving district-wide overcrowding.

    Fire Station Headquarters

    • Built in 1946 for a town of 14,000 residents, it now serves 32,000 residents.
    • Building is too small for modern equipment, compressing space for other station activities/needs (training spaces, decontamination spaces, administrative offices).
    • Weight of modern equipment has compromised structural soundness of the main floor-- has been reinforced by structural cribbing-- a temporary fix.
    • Basement floods further diminishing available storage space.
    • Has been recommended for replacement since 1993.

    Your unique voice is important. Please share what you think is important about each of these projects in your letter.

  • Lexington Minuteman Submission Guidelines

     

    SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

    Letters to the Editor are limited to 300 words.  Submissions exceeding the word limit may not be published and will be returned to the writer for editing.

    The weekly deadline for letter submissions is Monday at 9:00am.

    Submissions must include the following:

    • Author’s name and street name (just the street name, not the house number)
    • A daytime telephone number (for verification purposes, not for publication)

    Both will be published at the end of your letter. Unsigned letters and form letters will not be published.

     

    TO SUBMIT A LETTER

    Email with your letter to lexington@wickedlocal.com, or fax it to 781-674-7735, or mail it to:

    Letters

    ℅ Lexington Minuteman

    9 Merriam St.

    Lexington, MA 02420

    If you have questions about submissions, contact Joy Richard, 978-371-5786 or jrichard@wickedlocal.com

YES For Lexington  |   Lisa Farrell, Treasurer
405 Waltham Street, PMB 165, Lexington, MA 02421