The Needham Park and Recreation Commission voted this week to take off the table as an option for a future school site.
Though the issue only recently came to light for neighbors, who to show their concern, the commission has been aware of the proposal since Park and Recreation Director Patty Carey saw the field mentioned in a report to the Permanent Public Building Committee in March and has been following the process closely since then, member Tom Jacob said. The commission submitted a letter to the School Committee earlier this month outlining some of their concerns.
“It’s actually been on our agenda every meeting since we found out about it,” Jacob said of the issue.
Though it is , the Needham Public Schools School Committee has included Cricket Field as a possible future site for an elementary school building in a prefeasibility study that explores options for renovating or rebuilding and schools. On June 5, the committee heard a final report from Dore & Whitter, the firm hired to review the town’s options. The possible use of Cricket Field was one of the options presented, though the School Committee is still at least a year away from making a decision about the plan.
But Jacob said the Park and Recreation Commission feels now is the time to take Cricket Field off the table—before a statement of intent is drafted and sent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for review. And the fact that the committee had already removed three options from the table, as explained in the June 5 report, made it clear to the commission that it was not too early to take the same action with Cricket.
“We’re concerned with losing Cricket Field, and we’re also concerned that the report that goes to the MSBA from the PPBC and the School Committee is going to have Cricket as a potential option,” Jacob said. “So we just wanted to, as politely as we could, ask the School Committee and the PPBC to withdraw it.”
The Park and Recreation Commission voted unanimously at their meeting on Monday, June 11 to request that the park be removed as an option in the Hillside/Mitchell plan.
“Part of the logic is that, in our mind, it’s not feasible, based on one issue, which is that we have jurisdiction over that particular piece of property, and we’re not interested in relinquishing that jurisdiction,” Jacob said.
School Committee chairwoman Heidi Black and Needham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Gutekanst were both at the Park and Recreation meeting on Monday, along with about a dozen neighbors from the Save Cricket Field group.
Jacob said he expected the issue to come up at the next School Committee meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19.
“We’re hoping the next step is that the School Committee and the PPBC jointly remove Cricket Field as an option,” he said. “If they didn’t do what we requested, then we would have to do something to react to that.”
Jacob said the issue is similar to , back when it was being considered as a possible site for .
“It’s our duty as Park and Recreation commissioners to protect our open space,” Jacob said.
The full motion made by the Park and Recreation Commission on June 11 is as follows:
Whereas, the Park & Recreation Commission has full and sole jurisdiction of Cricket Field, and
Whereas, Cricket is a vital asset of the Park & Recreation Commission and the Town of Needham and is heavily utilized by school and youth athletes and the Park & Recreation Department, and
Whereas, the field is located in a neighborhood that is short on green space and has historic significance to the neighborhood and town, and
Whereas, the current Hillside School site has not been thoroughly reviewed as to whether it can or cannot continue as a school site, and
Whereas, the building of a school at Cricket would result in substantial redistricting; would incur significant costs that would not be reimbursed by the State for the construction of replacement fields and field house and would result in the loss of two heavily utilized multipurpose fields, play ground and field house during the 4 years of construction, and
Whereas, three options have already been withdrawn by the School Committee,
I move that we request the School Committee and PPBC withdraw Cricket Field as an option for any school building development.