In a recent presentation, the Wellesley School Facilities Committee (SFC) put forward a proposal to build a new Upham Elementary School, expand and renovate the current Hunnewell Elementary School, and close the current Hardy Elementary entirely. Although many past Hardy students may hold positive memories from their time at Hardy, I agree with the proposal: it is time for the building to be torn down and for Hardy students to be distributed accordingly.
There are both upsides and downsides to the potential project, which, if passed, would begin construction in December 2018.
The downsides to the proposal include the fact that a large number of Wellesley residents oppose the project and want to retain the neighborhood school model. Many of these residents support the “Save Wellesley Neighborhood Schools” campaign, whose goal is to stop the Facilities Committee’s proposal from passing. The campaign has a website and a Facebook page with over 330 likes.
Additionally, another concern is that – assuming the proposal passes – what will happen to the land that Hardy elementary currently sits on is undecided. This may be worrying to neighbors who would rather not see something commercial on that land.
These points are fair; however, the positives to the proposal highly outweigh the negatives. First, a variety of concerns surround these three schools, including insufficient and inappropriate learning spaces, modular classrooms being beyond their rated lifespans, a poor building system, and a lack of modern code compliance, particularly in terms of fire safety. If Town Meeting and voters go forth with the committee’s recommendation, these safety concerns would no longer be an issue.
Furthermore, the project costs 105 million dollars. While this may sound expensive, the cost of the new Wellesley High School was 90 million. In the case of the SFC’s proposal, not only would a new school be built – Upham – but Hunnewell would be expanded and renovated as well – all for 105 million dollars. It is worth the money to make the learning experience of future Wellesley elementary students excellent. This starts with modifying the old, inefficient buildings they learn in.
Finally, the current traffic pattern at Hardy is already challenging, causing, according to the proposal, “significant queuing and congestion” on Weston Road. Closing Hardy would minimize traffic impact “by taking these natural boundaries into account when drawing school attendance zones.”
In short, among the series of changes the committee suggests, the closing of Hardy makes sense, in terms of money, safety, and traffic. While many Wellesley residents – including myself – admire and appreciate the beautiful, historic town we live in, it is finally time for Hardy and Upham schools to be torn down. The longer the buildings stand, the more harm they pose to our students. In the case of Hunnewell, renovating the building is the most logical option, economically. In the case of Upham, building a new, better, safer building makes the most sense for our children. With Hardy Elementary, the school simply does not pose any serious advantages that would make keeping the building worthwhile.
(Jameson O’Neil ’18, Staff Writer)