The Hardy, Hunnewell, Upham Master Plan Committee (MPC) is reaching the end of its nearly year-long process and is preparing to make its formal recommendation to the School Committee on March 2. The MPC is the group that has been tasked with making a recommendation to the Town for the renovation and/or replacement of the Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham schools. MPC members have worked to commission new research and to understand the space needs of the Wellesley educational program.
During the most recent MPC meeting on February 2, there was a Motion that passed 13-1, which reads “…that the Hardy, Hunnewell, Upham Master Planning Committee recommend to the School Committee that it seek approval and funds to undertake a feasibility study to build new schools at the Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham sites, with the plan to build a 19-section school at Hardy or Upham, followed by a 19-section school at Hunnewell, followed by a 19-section school at the remaining site, provided, however, that funds will be sought for the design and construction of the first two schools upon completion of the feasibility study, but funds will be sought for the design and construction of the third school only upon further recommendation by the School Committee, which should occur if elementary enrollment reaches or appears likely to exceed 2,350 students on a trending basis and/or the current school configurations are limiting educational needs.”
With this Motion, the MPC is recommending that the town leave the option wide open to keep all elementary schools should enrollment continue on an upward trajectory, or if it just starts to look like Wellesley needs all seven of its elementary schools after all, and that therefore, neither Hardy nor Upham school properties should be sold.
A 24-section school, which many residents have said is just too big, is now off the table, and 19 sections per school is what the MPC is recommending.
The next big item is which school should be built first — Hardy or Upham. Traffic studies will likely be pored over again and become a major factor in the decision-making process here.
When it comes time to build, the initial thought was to build behind Upham. This is still being considered, however, there are now other swing space options being considered, but that are not guaranteed: the former St. Paul School at 502 Washington St., shuttered in 2015 (St. Paul Catholic Church is still open), or Hillside School in Needham.
After the MPC reports to the School Committee on March 2, the School Committee will then decide what exactly to send along to Town Meeting. Town Meeting will then tackle the HHU project during a spring or fall 2017 Special Town Meeting.
The next MPC meetings are Thursday, February 9 at 7pm at Town Hall and Thursday, February 16 at 7pm at the Wellesley library. At the February 16 meeting, the MPC will provide an overview of the HHU Master Planning Committee’s work, the tentative recommendation to the School Committee, and a forum for community feedback during Citizen Speak.
For a detailed look at the many different angles the HHU project was approached from, here is a link to the HHU Project schedule.