To the editor:
Gloucester children need us to vote yes on Question 3 for a new combined East Gloucester and Veterans Memorial Elementary School. Although I have strong emotional ties and fond memories of my own days at East Gloucester, I recognize the undeniable need for a new school. I spent the first six years of my time in Gloucester Public Schools learning in that very building. My daughter finished fifth grade there in 2019 and my son is currently in third grade, so we are intimately familiar with the current shortcomings of the building. Both East Gloucester and Veterans schools have served generations of Gloucester’s children, but it is now beyond time for change. Although the new school will not be completed in time for my own kids to benefit from it directly, it will serve thousands of children over the coming decades.
The trust and promise of providing a quality public education is laid upon every generation in turn. There is nothing more important in local government than the education of our children, which helps drive everything from property values to investment in local business and industry. The post-World War II residents of Gloucester knew this to be true, building schools that would educate for decades, nearly three quarters of a century, in fact. These buildings, East Gloucester and Veterans, have long served their purpose, well beyond what could have been expected. They have helped usher our students into a world that is so technologically different from anything that could have been imagined back then. However, the buildings are now aged and tired, insufficient for our students and our teachers with regard to classroom space, technology, air quality and general safety.
Even in this disconcerting time of COVID-19, we must make the positive decision to build anew. There will not be another opportunity to have nearly $27 million handed to us from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. There will not be another chance to build a school for around 60 cents on the dollar. There will be no scenario in which we could build two new schools on the existing sites. There will not be another time in which we can pass a debt exclusion and provide a state-of-the-art facility for more than 400 students for less than the cost of a monthly Netflix subscription for the average household. An increase of $25 on the quarterly tax bill of a home valued at $500,000 is a fair price to pay to provide the children of East Gloucester and Veterans with an amazing educational facility.
To be clear, the choice is not between a new combined school and renovated or even updated East Gloucester and Veterans facilities, that is not on the table. If we do not vote yes on this opportunity, to vote no means the schools will continue to deteriorate, there will be no infusion of cash for updates, patchwork measures will continue to simply get us by until we reach the point where building failure is imminent and we end up on our own to pay for a new building with zero help from the state.
That would be no way to honor the long-term promise of educating the youth of our city. Prior generations have provided the facilities and the educational path forward for us up to this point, now it is our turn. The city and its children are counting on us. Vote yes for Gloucester children. Vote yes for Gloucester schools. Vote yes on Question 3.