To the editor:
Will the East Gloucester Elementary School remain at its current site or will it be consolidated with the Veterans Memorial School?
There are three sites the Building Committee has in mind for the “East Gloucester Elementary School” project. Two of those sites will take the East Gloucester Elementary School out of East Gloucester and would consolidate it with Veterans Memorial Elementary School. One of those sites would eliminate the current, dedicated Mattos Field and another would put the school up on the Green Street site, 500 yards from the old Fuller School.
Can the Mattos Field site or the Green Street site handle the congestion that already exists at both of these locations? Are these two sites the best choices for a consolidated, 440-student school? We must keep in mind that a 200-unit complex, as well as a new YMCA, along with more retail shops and stores will soon be under construction at the site of the soon-to-be-demolished Fuller School. Is this where Gloucester residents want to see an elementary school sit? Can the Webster Street/Eastern Avenue intersection handle the added congestion if it doubles the size of the school? What impact would either of these sites be to the already congested extension coming into East Gloucester should the school be constructed on the Green Street site? What will happen to the current sites of Veterans Memorial and East Gloucester elementary schools should they no longer be used? How much will a consolidated school cost the taxpayers of this city? Should our current schools be renovated to meet the needs of the current students that attend? What would the final costs be to the taxpayers after Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursements? What would the cost be to renovate one or even two schools? What type of environment do elementary children belong in? Does the study show that elementary children do better in a smaller setting? All of these questions need answers.
I stood in front of our School Committee many years ago and asked “Our schools are beginning to deteriorate -- what are we going to do to maintain them?” School Committee member Ab Khambaty (chairman of the School Committee at the time) said, “Mary Ann, we do not need glorious buildings to educate children. We can teach them in a tent. What children need are teachers who have a strong desire to bring the best out in our children. We need parents who are involved with their PTOs and staff who care.” I left that meeting very upset, because I was a young mother who wanted it all for my daughter and her fellow students. But as the years have passed I understand his message loud and clear. Our schools do not need brand-new facades, grand entrances or hallways. They do, however, need safe, clean and well-maintained environments for both students and teachers (staff) alike to thrive in. It’s not the grand building that makes a school. It’s the people within that structure that make a school grand.
Can’t we provide safe learning environments that meet the needs of today’s students, staff and neighborhoods (yes, neighborhoods) without disrupting our green spaces, without disrupting neighborhoods? Can’t we renovate our two schools for less than the cost of a new, consolidated school? Green Street Playground and field remain green, East Gloucester Elementary remains, as well as its green space, Veterans and Mattos Field are saved and remain green ... all dedicated green spaces that are used daily throughout the entire year, not just for school purposes, but for the purpose of enjoying the beauty of what they are and the benefits they each create (the benefits of being outside, socializing with friends, meeting new neighbors and enjoying wildlife, to name a few). Are we willing to lose another elementary school? Are we willing to lose teachers and staff that invest in our city’s youth? If we lose a school we will lose more than just a building. We lose the most important parts of what children truly need, the people and their open fields/green spaces.
While researching information about our green spaces in Gloucester I came across the city’s Community Development Plan. Started in 2001 with pages added and dated, the Open Space and Recreation Plan (2010-2017) states: “The vision of this plan seeks to preserve and protect city assets that residents value. The intent of the plan is to develop processes that will preserve the ‘character of the city’ by including methods of identification of special places and city assets.”
Take a look throughout our city and others and you will see magnificent renovations to so many of the brick structures, structures that have survived for hundreds of years, structures that have been renovated with the latest technology. We teach our children every day to recycle and to save our earth. Let’s show them that it can be done. Can’t we provide clean, safe learning environments while maintaining and protecting our city assets that residents of all neighborhoods and all ages love?
The School Committee will present its list of options to the City Council on July 9. It will then go out for a city-wide vote once the council chooses its preferred option.
Mary Ann Albert Boucher