At the Monday, May 14 Board of Selectmen’s meeting the BoS and the School Committee joined to discuss the June Special Town Meeting. Their focus: whether the warrant for the meeting should be reopened and whether one of the votes regarding the Hardy/Hunnewell/Upham (HHU) project should be pushed to October.
- Article 2 — which asks the Town to appropriate $2.5 million for a feasibility study and schematic design of Upham School — will be presented and voted on at an additional Special Town meeting tentatively targeted for early October 2018. You can see the exact warrant wording here.
- Article 3 — which asks the Town to approve spending $1 million for a feasibility study of Hunnewell School — will be presented and voted on at the June 5 Special Town Meeting, as originally planned. You can see the exact warrant wording here.
Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham are the three elementary schools under consideration for either renovation or a teardown/rebuild scenario. Wellesley has 7 elementary schools.
The language in the warrant does not name Hardy School. School Committee Chair Michael D’Ortenzio explains why this is: “The Article 2 was a vote on doing feasibility for both Hardy and Upham, not just Upham. Though the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) process only allows the naming of one school, the Town boards are committed to doing feasibility studies on both sites…the project is nominally the Upham School, but that school may end up being built at either the Hardy or Upham locations. The MSBA is aware of our plans and has confirmed that we can study both sites as we have outlined to the community. The School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and School Building Committee are committed to a thorough study of both buildings and sites.”
The discussion centered around whether the Town as a whole would be best served by 1) delaying the consideration of Article 2 from the June Special Town Meeting and moving that discussion to a Special Town meeting tentatively targeted for October and 2) going forward with June’s Special Town Meeting regarding Article 3
The logic behind the change came down to communication. School Committee member Sharon Gray said, “We discussed this as a School Committee on Friday. I don’t think we came to a consensus about whether we wanted to go forward now or push it back to the fall. I think it’s fair to say that we were on the fence collectively.”
Ultimately, the School Committee, ended up on the side of the fence that collectively agreed that pushing the Article 2 vote to fall would allow the opportunity for additional communication about the project among community members and Town Meeting members. “If we push Article 2 to the fall, we will want to engage the various PTOs early in the school year,” one committee member suggested.
The emergence of Article 2 without any mention of Hardy fired up supporters of keeping that school and prompted town officials to clarify why Hardy wasn’t mentioned in the warrant.
The Board of Selectmen went into the meeting inclined to take Article 2 off the June warrant. Vice Chair Jack Morgan said, “The Selectmen have discussed and tentatively concluded that our inclination to take Article 2 off the warrant for the June Special Town Meeting would say we want to keep the community informed to the best of our ability.”
The discussion then turned to Article 3. Morgan said, “I think we should go ahead with the [June] Special Town Meeting regarding article 3.”
The School Committee wasn’t on the fence about this one, voicing strong support to move forward with a vote at the June 15 Special Town Meeting. The thought was that going forward with Article 3 would shed light on the best pathway to walk with the decision-making and information-gathering process about Hunnewell School. “We should go ahead with the June Special Town Meeting, hopefully get the funding for that feasibility study, and find out. The intent of the feasibility study is what can we do? What are the options to solve the physical and educational deficiencies that we see in the building?” a School Committee member said.
Gray said that on May 24, Town Meeting members will be welcomed to tour Hunnewell School.
A motion was made to postpone Article 2 until a Special Town Meeting in the fall. The motion was seconded, voted on, and passed.
Article 3 will be voted on at the June 5 Special Town Meeting at 7pm in the Wellesley Middle School auditorium.