When my girls were at Hardy (over 10 years ago), the school was considered by many to be dumpy, it still is, but I always loved it; it had a charm. It was falling apart, but it had some treasures like the entrance hallway. Together the children and parents painted scenes depicting each grade’s world unit like the cherry tree outside of the library that represented the unit on Japan– the drawing dazzled in pink lavender. The hall was a warm welcome, and then you entered the classrooms or library where parts of the carpet were rolled back to dry from the recent rain or desks were moved away from a collection of buckets ringing with the drip drip drip as water filled garbage bins. I remember Nina’s classroom the most. On dry nice days it was a great room to be in (it is the one with large bay windows facing Weston Road), but on rainy days, class was disrupted and kids were displaced to work in small groups in the hall. Mr. Guzzi had to keep an eye out for falling ceiling tiles during gym class (obvious dangerous sections were blocked off), and Mrs. Thompson had to run portable fans to keep the room at a reasonable temperature even in the winter. I’ve heard Hunnewell has similar stories. Educators and children are resilient, but at some point, it is time.
When we were at Hardy, the school was not scheduled to receive renovations, because there were other town priorities that had to come first. Having just completed work on the Bates and Sprague schools, the town building priorities shifted to the Warren Building, the Library, the Middle and High Schools and then later to Schofield, Fiske and PAWS, and the Senior Center. For a decade we have been studying what to do with the Hunnewell, Hardy, Upham (HHU) schools, and for more than a decade we have anticipated the need to build.
We have data, reports, and expert opinions. We know that enrollment is decreasing now, and we believe that enrollment will increase again due to the cyclical nature of the town’s population as well as the construction of hundreds of new housing units currently underway. Projections are never perfect (e.g. unanticipated dip in enrollment due to COVID); however projections with long term data (70 years) combined with an understanding of the environment (construction and movement to suburbs from cities) are the best tools we have to predict future needs. The cost/benefit of commissioning more studies is not favorable. It is time to move forward. As we have seen with the HHU project, building schools takes years of planning. Even if we don’t fill 2 new schools to capacity on day 1, we will likely fill those schools soon thereafter. I believe we should be prepared for the enrollment fluctuations rather than always scrambling. Being prepared costs money, but it will lessen the burden across all elementary schools and keep our neighborhood school model intact. Whether or not our own kids attend these new schools, we will all benefit indirectly. For some the benefit will be less crowding and smaller class sizes in all elementary schools; for everyone the benefit will be in stable and/or increasing property values and the addition of modern community resources.
We are a vibrant town, and we try to best allocate resources to maintain a high standard as equitably as possible. The Town has developed a plan to replace all three obsolete schools with two new schools at Hardy and Hunnewell. There are arguments to oppose construction of both Hunnewell and Hardy at once, and while the discussion and debate is healthy, we are at a decision point. Some voters may think checking one Yes box indicates support of our schools; I respectfully disagree. Some voters may think checking Yes for both Hardy and Hunnewell is excessive or not necessary at this time; I respectfully disagree. I believe we must invest by voting Yes twice. All households benefit when the town invests in its residents. Proving we value our children and our community means voting for both Hardy and Hunnewell now and to once again invest in our town. Please join me in voting YES x2 on December 7.