Wellesley was built upon the foundation of smaller neighborhood schools. Despite the deteriorating conditions of some of these buildings, our elementary schools have consistently ranked among the best in the state. Let's keep our rankings high and our schools smaller & closer to more families. Join us in urging the town to find a way to keep all seven elementary schools in Wellesley open.

The issue at hand:
  • In 2015 a recommendation was given  by the School Facilities Committee (SFC) to reduce the number of elementary schools from 7 to 6. The focus was on the fate of three schools in most need of repair: Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham (HHU).

 

  • The outcome of the SFC recommendation was that Hardy would close, Upham would be rebuilt and Hunnewell extensively renovated.

 

  • At that time Upham's new school would more than double in capacity, going from approximately 227 students to 536 students. Hunnewell’s capacity will go from approximately 269 to 425. Please note: their recommendation does not include a change to the current class size guidelines, but would increase the number of classes (sections) per grade, the total number of students in the building and the size of the building. Eventually it was decided by the committees (not the community) to focus on two 19 section schools.

 

  • The SFC provided a "conceptual estimate" (via their architectural firm, SMMA) of the entire project costing roughly $100 Million for two schools.

 

  • In response to negative feedback and inconclusive evidence, School Committee has formed additional committees to review the HHU situation:

 

The Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) met over a several months and was presented only with the SFC's data. The committee was restricted with how they were able to disseminate information to the public. No community input was soldering their review and the public could only communicate with the PAC via time-restricted statements made at Citizen Speak. The majority of the PAC said they'd only support consolidation with more evidence corroborating the need.

The HHU Master Plan Committee (MPC) completed their review in 2017. Also recommending 6 schools with a vote of 12 to 6 in favor of Upham. The members were selected jointly by the School Committee and Board of Selectmen via an application process; six members also sat on the original SFC.  Surveys and Forums indicated that the preference was not to close a school but the SC took the MPC recommendation and created a position statement accepting the 6 school solution. 

The School Building Committee (SBC) currently holds the review process. Their charge is to investigate if a 19 section school is feasible in the current Hunnewell location by completing a feasibility study then handing the process over to the Permanent Building Committee (PBC). At this point (10/1/19) the SBC believes a 19 section 75K gsf school is acceptable behind the library with the use of internal swing space (students spread across town by cohort) to accomplish this goal. During this process the forums and meeting held with parents have not been positive primarily due to internal swing space at host schools and school closure. It bears mentioning that the SBC also holds or has held many of the same town representatives from the prior committees. 

The consolidation plan for the Hardy/Upham project has officially started and will follow the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) guidelines. In 2017 the town was informed the Upham Elementary school was chosen to be accepted in to the MSBA program. The SC changed the school of priority from the school in the worst condition (Hardy submitted consistently for 4 years prior) to Upham per the MPC recommendation. The SC based the submission and site visits on a consolidation plan which excluded Hunnewell due to its locations. It was noted Hunnewell would be completed after the MSBA school due to swing space issues.

  • To see a list of commonly asked questions regarding the SFC proposal, click here.

Concerns:

 

  • A reduction of neighborhood schools, forcing the consolidation of students into fewer, larger buildings.

 

  • We have not been provided with studies proving larger schools are better for K-5 children. Why change what has worked so well for Wellesley up until now? Why not three 15 to 17 section schools?

  • Will larger schools become the trend for Wellesley? Town officials have confirmed that shortly after HHU construction is complete, plans will be underway for the needs at Schofield and Fiske (current renovations will be nearing the end of their life). With a desire to keep all things equal at all elementary schools, it's likely School Committee won't want such disparities between sizes of facilites. Consoliation of Fiske and Schofield might then be a real possibility.

  • What happens to the landscape of the Upham area, should the SFC's proposed large school be built there? How much of the forest will remain? Are the financial and environmental effects of blasting rock ledge to build a large school there prudent? How would other landscapes be affected at other school sites, should a large school be built elsewhere?

 

  • Lack of community input from the start. A recommendation was on the table to close a school before hearing from the community. At current forums (10/15/19 Hardy/Upham kickoff forum) four years later we are still asking the town to test the temperature of the town's residents on a plan of 6 vs 7.

  • Increased traffic through residential neighborhoods and the town center. Closing any school in town puts more cars on the road and requires families to travel greater distances.

  • Do we have an accurate handle on the current 40B developments and what students they may bring?

 

  • Enrollment studies are only a prediction of the next 10 years. Well built facilities could last 100 years (Hardy is 93 years old and still functioning successfully as a school, despite its deteriorating conditions). Closing a school on the basis of enrollment studies is shortsighted.

 

  • Shouldn't closing a school be a last resort?

 

  • Closing any school will lower that area's walkability score, decreasing property values, while taxes increase.

 

  • Unpredictable enrollment. Will we be closing a school to reopen one in the future, as has happened in the past? Will the current use of modular classrooms, closed sections, loss of specialist space and overcrowding repeat itself?

 

  • Are we creating an inequity of sorts when it comes to the location of new schools vs renovated schools or closed schools? Are we negatively affecting socioeconomic or cultural lifestyles by closing a school? For example people who do not drive and need to walk to school or maybe can not afford required busing.

 

  • The claimed annual cost-savings of consolidation (eliminated administrative positions at the closed school) doesn't take into account the need for even more administrative, custodial and nursing staff at a significantly larger facility.

 

  • Two members of the SFC also sit on the 5-person School Committee (SC). This means they essentially made this recommendation to themselves. SC will ultimately need to approve any plan with a 3-vote majority. These same SC members that had a voting position on the MPC and now again on the SBC. 

 

  • Extensive redistricing is required with current proposal. Keeping all 7 schools will still require some redistricting, but far less than with a closure.

 

  • Should a school close, what will happen to the land it sits on? The School Committee can't guarantee fields and play spaces will be preserved. Has the possibility of future development on a school site been factored into enrollment projections? Wellesely is currently 4% behind in the state's 10% guideline for 40B housing (i.e. affordable housing). The need to increase 40B housing will clearly increase the probability that open space will be desirable as new developments.

 

  • Is it wise to move a plan forward to a town-wide, debt exclusion vote, that already doesn't have town-wide support? Should the debt exclusion fail on a 2-school plan, significant time and money will be wasted.

 

  • It is noted in SMMA documents (page 2 of the Executive Summary of this document) that the SFC had a strong preference to close a school from early on. Consolidation offers administrative conveniences, but no data has been provided on its educational benefits. Is it right to build schools for the administration and not the kids?

  • The SBC is moving forward with a plan to take a new Hunnewell to a Special Town Meeting in December 2019. Will approving design funds lock in a two school plan?

 

How can you help? Sign our petition, send an email, host a lawn sign.
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