Lowell planners approve expanding charter

Date Published: 
November 6, 2017
Author: 
Robert Mills

LOWELL -- The Lowell Planning Board unanimously approved a site plan and special permit for expansion of the Collegiate Charter School of Lowell off outer Middlesex Street to become a K-12 school, with about 400 more students and a 92,778 square-foot addition in the works.

The school, which spent several years in temporary locations, obtained permits last year for a K-8 school on the former Bradford Industries site at 1857 Middlesex St.

The school is already paying to have sidewalks extended from the area of the school to the Chelmsford line, and for other traffic improvements as part of that permit granted last year.

As part of the amended special permit to expand up to grade 12, the school will now additionally pay for sidewalks to be extended from its entrance to Wood Street, for crosswalks in the area, and for a traffic light on Middlesex Street at the entrance of the school.

The traffic light will only function during pickup and dropoff hours, with drivers on Middlesex Street just getting a flashing yellow light during all other hours. The school is also giving the city over $175,000 to make other safety and traffic improvements in the area.

"I think they've contributed quite a bit to the city's infrastructure at this point," said the city's transportation engineer Nicolas Bosonetto.

 

The expansion will bring the school's total enrollment to about 1,200 students by 2023, with a new grade being added each year.

This fall, the school will add a 7th grade, with 8th grade being added next year.

The new building approved Monday night by the Planning Board will be four-stories tall, and located to the left of the existing building's entrance.

The school also funded a traffic study to determine whether the expansion will worsen traffic issues in the area, in particular at Wood and Middlesex streets.

Several board members had questions about traffic issues, but Bosonetto told the board he was satisfied with plans for traffic mitigation and safety improvements in the area.

Planning Board member Jordan Gys said he visited the school during drop off time recently and was pleased with traffic flow and improvements that had been made.

Jeffrey Dirk, a traffic engineer who is working with the school, told the board the expansion is not expected to make traffic worse.

The school sought to remove a condition of their permits that requires a detail officer to help manage traffic, because a traffic light is being added, but that request was not granted.

Board Chairman Thomas Linnehan said the requirement could be removed at a later date, but only after police Superintendent William Taylor has been consulted about whether he feels it's appropriate and safe.

Traffic around the school will continue to be monitored until 2023, and the permits granted Monday night require start and dismissal times to be staggered as more grades are added to mitigate traffic issues.

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