TONIGHT: vote to whittle new school options. Scenes and recap of new building plans presentation June 17

If you go-

Tonight’s meeting about East Gloucester/Veterans’ Memorial proposed elementary school building(s), will be held at the Gloucester Public Schools District Office Conference Room, 2 Blackburn Drive, Thursday June 20, 2019 5PM Find the agenda here 

Below are a few scenes from Gloucester’s school committee presentation by MSBA assigned designers, Dore & Whittier, and audience statements. The meeting was held at City Hall on June 17 and hosted by Ward 1 City Councilor Scott Memhard.The current status of proposed elementary school plans were reviewed. They discussed 14 options on 3 sites.

Audience members (approximately 125) were overwhelmingly opposed to the plans. People were vocal about green space, Mattos Field and memorial, women and sports, traffic, parking, transparency, consolidation, limited site options, narrow scope (what about the other schools), impact on each neighborhood, evaluation of West Parish, slow timeline, and future plans for any surplus property. Few in favor of consolidation were inclined with those proposed. One woman encouraged checking back in with the MSBA about completing multiple schools at once in lieu of consolidation and costs based on the firm’s belief that most of these options were ill suited.

Here is one statement read aloud reflecting concerns about green space and Mattos Field:

“Mattos field, East Gloucester school area, and Green Street all have the same thing in common: They are all open space and should be protected and preserved for future generations. 

Our Community Plan 2000 remind us over and over again the importance of our open spaces and the places we hold dear. The plan was “citizen-driven” and reached out to residents from all corners of our city. 

Since that plan, we are again reminded of our need and love for open space with our Open Space and Recreation Plan, a plan I was fortunate to be able to be a part of. This plan listed and inventoried all of our open spaces– from our beautiful beaches to our ball fields and parks, to our cemeteries and even our boat landings. Birds. Plants. All find a place in this plan. We talk about how we can protect these places and how we can improve them, but never did we talk about taking them away. 

Preserve, Maintain and Protect. These are the three words we should be using when it comes to our open spaces.  Because once it’s gone we can’t get it back. Thank you!”- Patti Amaral

Here is another statement pushing to reject all or nothing in favor of both/and:

“I’ve been to my share of School Committee meetings over the past several years and I’m learning more and more about what the future holds for the children of our city. There are three sites that the Building Committee has in mind for the “East Gloucester Elementary School” project. Two of those sites will take East Gloucester Elementary School out of East Gloucester.  One of those sites would eliminate the current Mattos Field and another would put the school up on Green Street, 500 yards from the old Fuller School.

The fate of East Gloucester Elementary needs your support.

I stood in front of our School Committee many years ago and asked, “Our schools are beginning to deteriorate. What are we going to do to maintain them? School Committee member, Ab Khambaty (president of the School Committee at the time) said, “Mary Ann, we do not need glorious buildings to educate children. We can teach them in a tent. What children need are teachers who have a strong desire to bring the best out in our children. We need parents who are involved with their PTO’s and staff who care.” I left that meeting very upset, because I was a young mother who wanted it all for my daughter and her fellow students, but as the years have passed I understand his message loud and clear. Our schools do not need brand new facades, grand entrances or hallways that have no educational purpose.

They do, however, need safe, clean and well maintained environments for both students and teachers (staff) alike to thrive in. It’s not the GRAND building that makes a school. It’s the PEOPLE within that structure that make a school GRAND. Can’t we provide safe, learning environments that meet the needs of today’s students, staff and neighborhoods (yes, neighborhoods) without disrupting our green spaces, without disrupting neighborhoods? Can’t we renovate our two schools for less than the cost of a new, consolidated school?

Green Street Playground and field remain green, East Gloucester Elementary remains, as well as it’s green space, Veterans’ and Mattos Field are saved and remain green. ALL dedicated green spaces that are used daily throughout the entire year, not just for school purposes, but for the purpose of enjoying the beauty of what they are and the benefits they each create. The benefits of being outside, socializing with friends, meeting new neighbors, enjoying wildlife. Are we willing to lose teachers and staff that invest in our city’s youth? If we lose a school we will lose more than just a building. We lose the most important parts of what children truly need, the people and their open fields. Take a look throughout our city and others and you will see magnificent renovations to so many of the brick structures, structures that have survived for hundreds of years, structures that have been renovated with the latest technology. We teach our children every day to recycle, repurpose and to save our earth. Let’s show them that it can be done. Can’t we provide clean, safe, learning environments while maintaining and protecting our city assets that residents of all neighborhoods and all ages love? Mary Ann Boucher,  advocate for kids, schools, green spaces and neighborhoods

The conditions pursued by the school committee are variable so it’s difficult to build or defend any consensus. In 2016, the Pines in East Gloucester was a front runner or placeholder. Opinions about consolidating multiple schools at Beeman or O’Maley were voiced but not fleshed out. In February of 2017, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), a state agency, moved the Gloucester school consolidation proposal further along in its funding process. In January 2019 at the school committee-city council-board of health joint meeting,  Chairman Pope mentioned exploratory conversations with Rockport about merging districts. Could the elementary and middle schools be situated on Rockport’s campus and O’Maley and GHS accomodate the middle and high school populations?   If so why would large school consolodiation buildings be underway? At the June 17th presentation, questions about other potential sites whether O’Maley, or any of the city’s school properties,  or land elsewhere, or merging with Rockport, went unanswered. Representatives from Dore & Whittier said this phase kicked off in December 2018 and was full spead ahead as of January; in truth, the process began years ago with Dore &Whittier. And new schools were a topic when my kids, now in high school, were in preschool (fantastic!) at the High School. Indeed, a generation of students has grown up and teachers retired since an “urgent” need was expressed. Conditions are urgent. Why is this process so costly and cumbersome? Why is constuction so expensive we can’t remedy in real time?

The school committee and new building sub-group welcome feedback and concerns

although they warn that in order for this process to stay on track for a new school ETA occupancy September 2023/24 they need to move forward with these options. Changes will increase cost.

See prior post with more slides of the presentation, mostly unchanged from the week before.

2 thoughts on “TONIGHT: vote to whittle new school options. Scenes and recap of new building plans presentation June 17

  1. Thank you Catherine for your wonderful reporting and for including my words in your article. Let’s save open space and our schools. We can do better.

    Liked by 1 person

Leaving a comment rewards the author of this post- add to the discussion here-

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s