Neighbors concerned about the possible use of Cricket Field as a site for a new Hillside Elementary School got a chance to speak out on the issue during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.
But they weren’t the only ones with something to say.
Parents from the Hillside School community also weighed in on the issue—asking the School Committee not to take Cricket Field off the table but to keep as many options as possible open for the future school building project.
Elizabeth Bloom, a Nehoiden Street resident and Hillside parent, said she didn’t feel it was fair to take any options off the table.
“It’s really just too early in the process,” she said. “It’s about more than what’s best for one particular area.”
Another Nehoiden Street resident, Ann Keegan, said the committee should move forward with all the final options presented in the prefeasibility study by Dore & Whittier.
“To have options taken off the table at this point really isn’t in the best interest of our students, and we really don’t want to delay this [project] any further,” she said.
Two weeks ago, on Tuesday, June 5, about 100 residents showed up to the School Committee meeting to hear a report from Dore & Whittier, the architecture firm hired to review the district’s options for rebuilding or renovating Hillside and Mitchell schools. The use of Cricket Field as a potential site for a new Hillside building was one of the options presented.
Despite the strong showing, School Committee chairwoman Heidi Black did not allow comments from the audience at the June 5 meeting, citing School Committee rules and procedures, but said it was still early in the planning process and that there would be opportunity for comment at future meetings.
The School Committee is looking to develop a statement of intent based on the study to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority this fall. The MSBA, which helps fund school building projects, would then review the district’s needs and consider whether to start the process of developing a plan for Hillside and Mitchell. The schools may or may not be included as part of the same project.
On Tuesday, June 19, a much smaller group of citizens turned out for the School Committee meeting and were given a few minutes to speak.
Hillside Avenue resident Susan Owen spoke first, saying she and others had agreed to come to represent the many neighbors who shared their concerns about losing Cricket Field.
“We feel that it is a disservice to the town to keep Cricket in the proposal,” Owen said, adding that doing so “takes energy away from finding a better solution to the Hillside and Mitchell problem.”
One of the issues Owen raised was that moving Hillside to Cricket Field would put the school in the Eliot School district—too close to the other school, which is located on Wellesley Avenue less than a mile from Cricket Field.
Another Hillside Avenue resident, Heather Yountz, said she and her neighbors had come up with a few alternative locations that would keep Hillside in or close to its current area, including the current Stephen Palmer Center on Pickering Street, the Dwight Building (currently operated by The Charles River Center) and the old nike missile site on Pine Street.
A Wayne Road resident noted that the School Committee had already taken several options off the table during the course of the prefeasibility study so it did not seem too early in the process to do so with Cricket Field. He mentioned the Park and Recreation Commission’s June 11 vote, in which they unanimously requested that the committee remove Cricket Field as an option.
The resident also drew attention to the “very narrow roads” in the Cricket Field area and said that the addition of a school on that property would only add to traffic congestion.
Several of those who were opposed to the Cricket Field option said they were willing to work with the School Committee to develop other options and said they would ultimately support an override to build a new school.
Black said the School Committee has received numerous e-mails from people on both sides of the issue and encouraged residents to continue communicating any concerns or questions to board members.
The final prefeasibility is due by the end of June and will reflect the issues raised over the past few weeks, Black said.
“We will at our July 10 meeting be taking up the motion made by the Park and Recreation Commission as well as the letter we received from them,” Black said.
She said typically the School Committee discusses an issue at one meeting and brings it up for a vote at their next meeting, although, she could not say whether that is how they will proceed with the Cricket Field issue. The following meeting would be held in August.