Lancer Pride promotes new high school project
Date: 5/3/2010May 3, 2010
By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW - As the two votes quickly approach - the Special Town Meeting on May 25 and the ballot question on June 8 - both groups of voters in town, those for the new high school and those against it, are becoming more vocal.
On the pro side of the issue is Lancer Pride, an organization started earlier this year with a mission of supporting a yes vote for new construction of Longmeadow High School.
Another group, Citizens for a Better Longmeadow, has called for a scaled-back version of the project.
Members of Lancer Pride recently met with Reminder Publications to talk about what they do and why.
"This is not a done deal," Kim Burns, a board member of Lancer Pride, explained. "It's up to the voters."
Beth Baron, president of Lancer Pride, noted the new high school would be the biggest capital improvement project the community has ever faced. She said her organization is crucial in gathering volunteers to help move the project forward.
"Our goal first and foremost is getting the correct information out and being consistent with our message," Baron said. She added that the plan for a new high school did not come from a group of people in town who felt it was necessary the feasibility study approved by voters and undertaken by design professionals came to that conclusion.
"The engineers determined the best options for the town and came up with eight of them," Baron said. "Those options were vetted out in public over the past three years and it was decided Option 2B [some renovation, some new building] was the best. We had an opportunity as a community to give our input."
She continued that no matter what others may say is the best solution, the design professionals working on the project determined what worked best.
The entire cost of the project is approximately $78.5 million, with $34 million being guaranteed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). Lancer Pride lists the following five points as reasons to support the project:
• Money: The state has earmarked nearly 52 percent of the new construction costs for Longmeadow - roughly $34 million dollars
• Accreditation: A new school preserves the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation status, allowing children and their teachers the best environment to teach and learn in the 21st century
• Taxes: Taxes don't peak until 2014 and decline for the remainder of the 25-year bond
• Home Equity: Retain the value of homes in Longmeadow, and
• Community: Invest in the town this is the most economically feasible option.
"The people in Longmeadow are educated and level-minded. I have faith in them [to make a good decision]," Baron said. "It's not about us versus them. It's not pro-school - it's pro-community. It's not just a bunch of parents with kids in the system - it's for everybody."
Baron said the town has 120 days from the MSBA approval of project (which was voted on March 31) to agree to fund their portion of it. If it is voted down, Longmeadow would be the first municipality in the state to refuse MSBA funding.
"They might not come back with another opportunity," she said. "This is something we've talked about for 10 years. All the hard work is done. It's up to the voters in town to support it."
Lancer Pride is willing to host presentations about the new project throughout town. For more information on the group, visit www.lancerpride.org