LOWELL -- The School Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday night to support the School Department's recommendation that its Central Administration offices return to the Bon Marche building downtown, as well as a building across the street.

The committee approved the recommendation of Jay Lang, deputy superintendent of finance and operations, to enter into a three-year lease with two one-year options for 29,920 square feet of office space at 155 Merrimack St., which is the Bon Marche building.

When the space owned by the Bon Marche Trust is fully occupied, the annual cost to the School Department will be $333,623.

Lang also recommended the School Department enter into a three-year lease with two one-year option extensions for 10,045 square feet at 144 Merrimack St., owned by Bertos Nominee Trust. The annual cost to the schools will be $90,194 when that space is fully occupied.

Lang estimates the cost for leasing office space in the current fiscal year will be $306,404 based on the occupancy schedule.

The city had received four lease proposals in response to its request for proposals.

"One of the critical factors for us was cost," Lang said in explaining his recommendation at Wednesday night's meeting.

School Committee member Stephen Gendron spoke in favor of Lang's recommendation.

"I think this is a good solution," Gendron said. "Bringing the school administration downtown is good for the city. We're going to have a nice central location.



The School Department needs to move some of its offices out of its current location in the Rogers School by Aug. 1.

The move back to the Bon Marche building comes five years after the School Committee voted to adopt then-Superintendent Chris Scott's recommendation to move the School Department's headquarters out of the Bon Marche and into the then-closed Rogers School on Highland Street.

The School Department had been paying $656,900 annually in rent for 50,000 square feet of the 99,000-square-foot Bon Marche building.

In other business, the committee:

* voted unanimously to support the motion of members Gendron and Kim Scott to request Superintendent of Schools Jean Franco to replace the class-ranking system with GPA profile distribution and begin reporting it for all grade levels, with GPA, for the 2014-15 school year;

* voted unanimously to support the motion of members David Conway and Mayor Rodney Elliott to request Franco and Elliott meet with public-safety officials, city officials and school personnel to re-institute a task force on school and city safety;

* voted unanimously to support member Connie Martin's motion to request that the administration provide a report on the 2014-15 school year pre-kindergarten lottery, including steps to improve the process moving forward;

* and tabled discussion of the legal opinion on Scott's proposed nepotism policy for the School Department until the policy subcommittee has had a chance to review it. The policy is expected to be discussed at the Aug. 20 meeting.