AUBURN, Mass. – School Building Committee Chairman Mark Imse says negotiations are underway with the Masonic Lodge as the town “goes through the steps it needs to go through legally” to buy land for a new Auburn middle school on West Street.
“Everything is moving forward like it’s supposed to be,” Imse said.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) was initially concerned about Auburn's ability to buy land for the school after it received the West Street middle school plan in early August.
Imse said the town is trying to “get something formal in place with Masonic Lodge” by Oct. 3, when Auburn has a meeting with the MSBA. At that meeting, the state will decide whether the next middle school will be built on West Street.
“We’re still very hopeful,” said Superintendent of Schools Maryellen Brunelle. “Every step forward we take is a step in the right direction.”
Any deal negotiated with the Masonic Lodge must be approved by the Board of Selectmen, followed by a Town Meeting in the fall or spring to approve funding.
In June, the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Finance Committee all approved the West Street option for Auburn Middle School.
The West Street option was the least expensive of five proposals. A new school there would cost just under $20 million — $19,826,566. The other plans were projected to cost $3 million to $5 million more.
The other plans included renovating and adding to the current middle school, building a new one next to the current school and building one on Pakachoag Street.
The West Street option was the only one where the positives far outweighed the negatives, said Eric Moore of Lamoureux-Pagano Associates. The West Street layout would meet the middle school’s team-teaching concept, also called a “pod teaching scheme,” he said. The site allows access from two streets — West Street and Masonic Circle, Moore said.
In addition, no interruptions or disruptions would occur at the current middle school during construction, said school officials. And the construction period of 24 months would be shorter.
However, the West Street site requires the purchase of additional land from the Masonic Lodge.
The MSBA will spend the next month reviewing the West Street plan and is expected to make a decision on Oct. 3.
Town officials, including Brunelle, Imse and Town Manager Julie Jacobson, will seek state approval for the project at the MSBA's October board meeting in Boston.