I’m a frequent blogger, but this is only the second time I have actually posted something to Village 14. Tomorrow evening, the Board of Aldermen is scheduled to vote to appropriate $2.4 million to purchase 3 homes on Beacon Street to help accommodate a new and enlarged elementary school on the site of the current Zervas School.
I’m a member of the Newton Highlands Neighborhood Area Council and some of our members have been at the forefront in advancing Plan B. Be that as it may, I have been an observer rather than a real participant during the recent debate between the two plans.
I’ve reviewed as best I can both the Plan A and Plan B proposals and an aggressively crafted rejoinder to Plan B by the Zervas Working Group that was circulated to Board members this afternoon, only one day before the Aldermen are scheduled to vote.
Most importantly, I also listened with keen interest to comments by Alderman Ted Hess Mahan at a recent Board meeting along with several pungent comments on this blog by a very thoughtful and articulate individual who blogs under the name Patrick. Both emphatically argue that there is simply not enough land space available at Zervas, with or without the 3 properties, to adequately accommodate 24 classrooms, 490 students and all the teachers, support staff and related facilities that would be required to operate a school of this size. They also argue that this size problem will exist, under either Plan A, Plan B, or any other Plan or revision that calls for this many students at the Zervas Site. I’m not certain whether or not this is true, but it’s a major concern and deserves to be debated.
The City will claim that the process has been open and extended to everyone in the community, but that’s not what I’m hearing. In fact, I’ve talked to many people in our community over the past several months and I just know there isn’t a consensus in favor of the School Committee’s change in strategy from neighborhood schools to these larger commuter schools. In fact, virtually everyone I talk to either is emphatically against it, or doesn’t understand the logic behind it.
I just believe that fast tracking this process the way this is being done could ultimately come back to haunt the City. Stepping back and letting the community in on big issues such as school size could lend a degree of credibility, consensus and fairness that can only stand the City in good stead in the years ahead, particularly if currently unforeseen problems or cost overruns occur.