Cawley is a great site but at what cost to the School District and City?

I’ve stated that I’m in favor of the Cawley (or at least the original one) site plan

FEB 2017

and I have a desire for a new state of the art high school.

However when I start to look at how it could affect almost every other school in the city, how it could affect the budget cost and how it already has impacted Belvidere, the Downtown, South Lowell and Centralville residents along with involving the towns of Tewksbury and Chelmsford, I’m wondering if it is indeed worth the trouble to build in this location?

Setting aside the whole personal and political divide and conflict that this entire issue has caused, let’s just look at what has occurred or been proposed in order to build a new LHS at the Stadium site.

Yesterday I pointed out that we still need the Lowell Zoning Board, Lowell Conservation Commission, Tewksbury Conservation Commission, Chelmsford Conservation Commission’s and possibly the Lowell Cemetery Commission’s approvals for the Cawley site and replication plan tied to that site. I forget that the Lowell Board of Parks still has to approve the Beacon St. Reservoir – South Lowell / Manning Field development or that we needed the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to okay the field replication because of Article 97 restrictions and we had to get the Mass State Legislature involved as well in the form of a Home Rule Petition just in case the replication offer didn’t work. How much time and effort has been put in just to make this 1 site feasible?

When I heard Tim Blake a candidate for School Committee on City Life this morning, talk about the supposed need to bus High School Kids it made me go back and take another look at the “suggestion” or “idea” John Descoteaux had if the High School was built at Cawley. It is a solid plan but the more I thought about it from the view of a School Committeeman, the more concern I have.

Lowell has a total of 14,416 students in the system for the 2016/2017 school year. Of those the High School has aprox. 3,300 total. Even if that number goes to 3,500 in 2022 the estimated cost just to keep the status quo and not change anything is $3.2 Million dollars to bus students to LHS regardless of location.

To try to keep things Budget “neutral” we would have to move the start time for LHS from 8:00 am to 7:15 am. Then we would have to re-zone the city, eliminate the STEM Academy and change the starting times of 5 out of the Eight Middle Schools and 9 out of the 15 elementary schools and make a few current K-4 or 5-8 into K-8 as the Bartlett and Pyne Schools are now.

All of that to build at this one location.

Are we willing to eliminate the STEM Academy? To change the starting and ending time of 15 schools (LHS included) to make that location work for 3300 students ? Are we willing to disrupt the existing schedule of 8,000 other students and families?

If those opposed to that site are just NIMBY’s what does that make those who are willing to disrupt so many other students and families for the sake of getting their new building in this location?

In case you missed last Tuesday’s meeting or stories in the SUN, the School department is already concerned with the budget and the amount of money the city can provide. Where do we find another $3.2 million when the Superintendent is saying the next round of cuts will effect the classroom if we don’t rezone?

This is all before we have seen any estimated cost for the actual site work or cost of the building. YES there will be a SMALL savings on heat / electricity but not even enough to offset the busing cost.

The more I hear and read the more my thought’s are that while I’d love a new building at Cawley, I don’t think it is realistic or fair to the rest of the city.

I’m liking Councilor Leahy’s motion and idea that many on both sides have stated in the past, WHY NOT IN THE HAMILTON CANAL? WHERE NOTHING HAS WORKED AND WHERE TWO MAJOR WELL RESPECTED DEVELOPERS GAVE UP TRYING TO BUILD IN THERE!

We would NOT have to get Tewksbury or Chelmsford Approval, No more Board of Parks involvement, No Eminent Domain, we would not have to rezone the entire city, we would not have to change start and ending times for 8,000 or so other students and families, we could give the 1400 students who currently walk a LRTA Bus pass for 10 months for $280,000, there would be a brand new state of the art building, there would be no health and safety concern about asbestos and lead during construction and it would stay in the downtown and the Economic Development would shift from the Hamilton Canal on the outskirts of the downtown to the heart of downtown between UMASS and the UMASs Arena and the proposed new boutique hotel. The 1980’s block could be torn down ands built to whatever someone wanted there and a developer could receive historic tax credits to redevelop the Kirk St. building.

Maybe this makes way to much common sense! To me, it seems like a much easier, less disruptive location for the entire community.