“Save Cricket Field” organizer Sue Owen said she was not surprised by the School Committee’s not to remove the field as an option for a future site.
But Owen said she and others from the neighborhood plan to maintain their efforts to seek out alternatives and to convince the town that building on Cricket Field is not the way to go.
“I think the School Committee is committed to going forward, to finding solutions for at Hillside and Mitchell, and we in the Cricket Field community are also supportive of finding options,” Owen said after the meeting, held July 10 at . “I can see where the Hillside community might be fearful that their school could be eliminated or that redistricting could change the community. We don’t want that, but we don’t feel that Cricket is the right solution, and frankly I’m really frustrated and angry that this is pitting two neighborhoods against each other.”
Responding to from the Park and Recreation Commission asking the board to remove Cricket Field from the table, School Committee members said they did not feel comfortable taking a vote one way or the other.
A vote against Park and Rec’s recommendation might be seen as an endorsement of Cricket Field as an option, School Committee member Michael Greis said, when much of the board actually supports keeping Hillside at its current location, on Glen Gary Road, if at all possible.
“I would rather not have something go forward that might be interpreted as the School Committee wanting to put a school there [on Cricket Field],” Greis said.
School Committee chairwoman Heidi Black said the district needs to make sure its school buildings are equitable for all students, with balanced student populations and grade sections.
“I believe the goal of the School Committee is to keep the Hillside community together as much as possible,” Black said.
Keeping the students and staff together is something many Hillside parents feel strongly about as well.
“We came into this meeting just thinking that the most important thing to us is keeping the Hillside community together,” Seth Bloom, a Hillside parent, told Patch after the meeting. “We have a clear first preference, which is to rebuild on the Hillside site. It’s a neighborhood school. It’s a wonderful community of people.”
But Bloom also understands that rebuilding an adequate school on the old site may not be possible because of space restrictions and other issues.
“We also came into the meeting realizing that there are only three significant options , which is by definition very preliminary,” Bloom said. “We’re very happy that the School Committee chose to keep all three options on the table, because we think it’s in all of Needham’s best interest to keep those options on the table.”
Owen said she also wants Hillside to have a neighborhood school.
“I just don’t think it’s smart to put it on Cricket Field,” she said. “We have an elementary school  .6 miles from that site.”
As the School Committee continues its process this summer and fall of submitting a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Cricket Field neighbors plan to maintain their efforts to raise awareness of the issue and look for new options, Owen said.
“We have very specific plans,” she said. “We’ve broken up into subgroups. There’s one group that is doing research on alternative sites for Hillside specifically. There’s another group that’s doing outreach—to contact the School Committee, the selectmen, the senators that represent this district. We have people who are involved in community outreach so that everybody in our community can be on board and come together to support keeping Cricket Field, Cricket Field.”
Many of the groups have been meeting weekly, Owen said.
“We have a website. We have a Facebook page,” she said. “We’re trying to keep people informed and get people involved in saving this beautiful green space.”