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What Would a New High School Mean to You?

This week's Moms Talk wants to know how the debate about whether or not to build a new high school impacts your family.

Moms Talk is a new feature on Wilmington Patch that is part of a new initiative on our Patch sites to reach out to moms and families. 

Wilmington Patch invites you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Wilmington.

Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

Moms, dads, grandparents and the diverse families who make up our community will have a new resource for questions about local neighborhood schools, the best pediatricians, 24-hour pharmacies and the thousands of other issues that arise while raising children.

Moms Talk will also be the place to drop in for a talk about the latest parenting hot topic. Do you know of local moms raising their children in the Tiger Mother's way and is it the best way? Where can we get information on local flu shot clinics for children? How do we talk to our children about the Tucson shootings? How can we help our children's schools weather their budget cutbacks?

So grab a cup of coffee and settle in as we start the conversation today with a question from Wilmington Patch's Mom Council:

The Story 

Wilmington is in the process of a feasibility study in deciding to voters before year's end. If voters decide to build new, the town would be eligible for about 50 percent reimbursement from the state. The topic was fresh during Tuesday night's candidates debate as hopefuls for the and School Committee each discussed the issue.

Our Question

As a mother, how do you weigh the cost to you as a taxpayer versus the reward for your children? Are you in support of a new school? If your children are younger, do you find it difficult to think that far in advance, or do you already have an eye towards their high school days? What do you most look for in a potential new high school?

We welcome you to answer the question or ask the Moms Council another parenting question in the comments section.

Melissa Erickson April 06, 2011 at 04:25 PM
I am absolutely 100% on board with a new high school. If you look at the surrounding towns that have new high schools and then you look at Wilmington's current high school it is a disappointment. The building is old and run down and there is a lack of space. I think that as a mom with kids in Grade 1 and K that the prospect of a new high school for their future is incredible. It will just be another reason that people can say I am proud to live in Wilmington!
Laurie April 07, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Personally as a tax payer the idea of a new high school is frustrating given that we just built a new middle school. At the time I was very curious why we did not build a new high school (9 - 12) and use the old high school (6 - 8) for a middle school. It's only been 10 years since I graduated from Wilmington Public Schools and I found the schools to be sufficient for their purpose and I also seem to recall that there were more students in baby boomer years than there are now. In addition, my understanding is that the birth rate is currently very low. Thus, I would need to see data for the last 30 - 40 years as well as projections for the next 30 - 40 years that strongly supported a long-term need for a new high school.
Mark Nelson April 07, 2011 at 09:57 AM
Buying The Farm and building a New Model High School would mean a state reimbursement of $ 39,600,000.And a state of the art facility built without having to deal with the oil spill concerns at 159 Church Street. Go to lowelldeeds.com click on the yellow search box a new window will open, click on the property search tab and enter 159 Church St. Wilmington. View the notices recorded at the registry of deeds. It is a serious health concern to all to try any attempt of building at the current high school site. After buying and building at the farm, the current high school could then become the new town hall. It would also allow the Pop Warner to practice at both the Glen Rd and High school. The state does not reimburse for demolition of old High School or clean up of contamination.
Robert Hayes April 07, 2011 at 09:50 PM
Mr. Nelson: You'll be getting your oil spill concerns answered on Tuesday night. :) Laurie: If that data is easily (or somewhat easily) available, I'll make sure to get it to you. When you graduated (I'm assuming Class of 2001), high school enrollment was 830. This year's enrollment is 980. You are correct, however, enrollment is projected to decline. It's been seen in many communities, however, that when a new high school is built, enrollment increases (or decreases more slowly than otherwise would have) because more students stay in district, rather than attend a vocational or private high school.
Laurie April 08, 2011 at 03:33 AM
Thanks, Robert. You are correct that I graduated in 2001 and I was aware at the time that future classes would be larger but an extra 37.5 students in each grade does not seem to warrant a need for a whole new building or renovation. Could we buy or rent a trailer to support this temporary need? I also did not notice a problem with declining enrollment. I saw a very small percentage of students attend private schools (I would estimate less than 2 or 3%) and some students went to the tech. I don't recall any students choosing the tech over the high school because of the building but because the tech offers a different academic experience. I am aware that the tech is making some upgrades and that makes sense given that their focus is on hands-on learning and training. WHS tends to focus more on preparing students for college and I don't see a need for a fancy building for that purpose. I would rather see investments in academics and technology instead of building a bigger school especially since we likely wouldn't be able to afford to hire additional teachers. What good is more space if we will not have additional teachers, equipment, etc.? I am in support of education but I am very concerned that taxes will go up and the quality of education will not improve!
Mark Nelson April 08, 2011 at 12:17 PM
here is the most recent proposal at the Farm if the town does not purchase Developer sees senior housing in farm's future Despite a downturn in the housing market, a national development chain is eyeing farmland in Wilmington and Andover as a potential spot for a large-scale senior housing project. The land straddling the town line, known as Sciarappa Farm, is being considered for what town officials say could be one of the largest development projects in Wilmington history. Brickstone Properties, informally presented the town with plans to build 624 units of senior housing and a 150-bed skilled nursing facility, The town will have the first opportunity to buy its portion of the farm, which has 62 acres in Wilmington, Caira said. He estimated it would cost about $7.5 million if the town decides to buy the land. Located at 333 Andover St., the farm has been in the Sciarappa family since 1922. according to William Crowley, the attorney representing David Thompson, one of the owners. "The demographics are such that over the next 10 years the population of the baby boomers will be getting older," Spagat said. "There's a huge demand for this kind of project." Whether a project of that size will be successful in Wilmington is unclear. Yet the idea of undertaking such a large development has some residents in town worried for a variety of reasons.
Robert Hayes April 08, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Mr. Nelson: I don't have inside information. I, you know, asked the Chair of the HSBC about the oil spills and was told that Dore & Whitter will discuss the issue on Tuesday night. I have faith that our Town Administration; School Administration; High School Building Committee; Dore & Whittier Architects; Joslin, Lesser & Associates, Inc.; the project's environmental consultants; the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; the Massachusetts School Building Association; and the various state and federal environmental agencies would not allow Wilmington to build a new high school on unsafe grounds. Additionally, I don't want anyone to be misled by your above post. That's a copy & paste from a Boston Globe article that's more than THREE years old.
Manny Mulas April 08, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Hi Laurie, I can understand your concerns, nobody wants to see taxes go up, especially in this economy, but we also want to see Wilmington move forward. Towns all around us are building new schools equiped with the tools and technology to give students an edge. The kids in our town are competing with those students for the jobs of the future. The technological and educational requirements are changing very fast and the existing school building just isnt equiped to keep up with those changes. We also have an incredible opportunity that we may not have again, the state will reimburse up to 50% of the cost, also because of the economic environment the cost of building a school is a lot less than it would have been 2 0r 3 years ago. Our bond is rated the highest its ever been so the cost of borrowing is cheaper and lastly we will make the last payment on the debt exclusion for the middle school this year. The operating budget for the new school would not be much more than the existing budget. Also as homeowners in Wilmington, we will all benefit from the increase in property value. This really is the time to do this, it would be a shame to pass up this opportunity that we may not see again. Education will improve, the teachers will have the tools that they need and the space that they need.
Manny Mulas April 08, 2011 at 11:25 PM
I could not agree with you more Melissa
Mark Nelson April 09, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Will WCTV be televising this meeting? HSBC Meeting/Public Forum April 12, 2011 6:30 p.m. Wilmington HS Auditorium I certainly hope so, we need to get the facts about the oil spills on the record.
Mark Nelson April 09, 2011 at 11:22 AM
Additionally, I don't want anyone to be misled by your above post. That's a copy & paste from a Boston Globe article that's more than THREE years old. Mr. Hayes do you know if there is a preliminary on file with the planning board that you could view for yourself? And could a 40B project be considered onthe Farm rather than a NEW MODEL SCHOOL with a 60 % reimbursement not a 50 % an additional savings to the taxpayers of 6.9 million dollars, enough so to pay for the purchase of the FARM. Simple Math if you will.
Robert Hayes April 09, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Yes, WCTV will be televising that meeting.
Manny Mulas April 09, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Hi Steven, I respect your opinion very much, but I do have to respectfully disagree. All the statemenst that I made are based on conversations that I have had with reprensentatives directly involved with this project. I am not just saying something to spin it in my favor. It is not the type of person that I am. Regarding the operating budget, you will still be have 1 operating budget for 1 high school, You may have to hire some additional staff, but not to the point where you would be increasing the budget "dramatically" furthermore a big part of the operating budget is used for maintanance and repairs that are needed regularly at the existing school. This would not be an issue with a new building.
Robert Hayes April 09, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Mr. Nelson: - You say it’s unsafe to build on the current site. On your Facebook, you even said said: “There is no way a new high school can be built at that site.” I suspect the professional experts are going to say otherwise. - You talk about The Farm as the “perfect location.” Whether they want new construction, renovation, or nothing at all, virtually everyone I talk to actually likes the current location of WHS in the “center” of town (as opposed to on the Andover line!), near the Town Common, Library, Senior Center, 4th of July Building, Arts Council, and Centre Village Historical District, not to mention 10 seconds from the Public Safety Building. - You are constantly throwing out costs and savings (I presume based on some other district’s construction costs for a new model school), but – as the Town Manager stated at the 3/28 BOS Meeting – no one has any hard numbers AS IT PERTAINS TO WILMINGTON because those numbers simply don’t exist yet. As was said at that meeting, you have numbers that no one else has. - You say the town should purchase the Farm. What you’re really talking about now, to be clear, is paying fair market value and taking the land by EMINENT DOMAIN, correct? (to be continued, ran out of characters....)
Robert Hayes April 09, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Mr. Nelson (continued): - You joked about “simple math.” The $7.5 million (your number) to buy the farm is actually MORE than the $6.9 million in savings from building a new model school (again, your number)! Also, wouldn’t raiding our free cash account affect our bond rating, which will have an adverse effect on paying for this project? Also, not a criticism because everyone is using the 50% number, but the reimbursement rate may actually be a little higher than 50% due to incentive points that may be achieved. (http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/sites/default/files/edit-contentfile/9_30_09%20Board%20Meeting/Renovation%20Incentive%20Points-2.pdf) - And if you’re now saying we should just purchase the back 40 acres at $4.0 million, using your scary “a 40B-project-could-be-built-on-the-land” talk, wouldn’t you be concerned that The Farm could then turn around and sell the rest of its land to some person/company/whatever that could then potentially build something we don’t want next to a school? - You talk about “wasting” money on custom designs. I’m sorry, but I’d actually like Wilmington to have as much say as possible in the design of its high school. (to be continued, again...)
Robert Hayes April 09, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Mr. Nelson (finally): - You also talk about how much quicker a Model School process would be. HOWEVER, at the 3/28 BOS Meeting, I remember the Town Manager and a BOS member telling you that the land was restricted in such a way (for farming purposes, I presume?) that it wasn’t immediately buildable. There was a 3-step process that sounded like it would take awhile, with potential roadblocks throughout (e.g., possible required unanimous vote from Conservation Commission?). - To answer your questions, I would guess the answers are “yes” and “yes.” I’ll take a look at any OLD hypothetical plans for a 40B project at The Farm site, but blocking a non-existent 40B is not my primary concern when determining the best site to educate the future of this town.
Manny Mulas April 09, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Steven, I am speaking from a position of a member of the community that has done the research and been informed of the project, also from someone that feels that a new school is needed in this town as do many other concerned parents. I do not take your opinions personal, on the other hand , i respect your position, I just simply disagree with it, so at this point, I will just agree to disagree with you. Thank you
Mark Nelson April 09, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Dear Mr Hayes, I will attempt to clarify MGL chapter 61A. PART I ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT (Chapters 1 through 182) TITLE IX TAXATION CHAPTER 61A ASSESSMENT AND TAXATION OF AGRICULTURAL AND HORTICULTURAL LAND Section 4 Valuation of land in agricultural, etc. use; contiguous land; tax rate .Section 4. For general property tax purposes, the value of land, not less than five acres in area, which is actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural or agricultural and horticultural uses during the tax year in issue and has been so devoted for at least the two immediately preceding tax years, shall, upon application of the owner of such land and approval thereof, be that value which such land has for agricultural or horticultural purposes. For the said tax purposes, land so devoted shall be deemed to include such contiguous land under the same ownership as is not committed to residential, industrial or commercial use and which is covered by application submitted pursuant to section six. Land shall be deemed contiguous if it is separated from other land under the same ownership only by a public or private way or waterway.
Mark Nelson April 09, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Land under the same ownership shall be deemed contiguous if it is connected to other land under the same ownership by an easement for water supply. All such land which is contiguous or is deemed contiguous for purposes of this chapter shall not exceed in acreage one hundred per cent of the acreage which is actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural or agricultural and horticultural uses. The rate of tax applicable to such agricultural or horticultural land shall be the rate determined to be applicable to class three, commercial property under chapter fifty-nine.
Mark Nelson April 09, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Mr. Hayes. a new school is not built over night. Here is the link to Article 97..COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ...File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View right or interest of the Commonwealth in and to Article 97 land. ... This policy supersedes all previous EOEA Article 97 land disposition policies. ... www.mass.gov/Eoeea/docs/eea/dcs/DCSarticle97.pdf - Similar.....If a private developer wanted to towns 30 acres this would be very problematic, however it is not for the Town, your are being mislead by others comments.
Mark Nelson April 10, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Mark Nelson has recently announced his candidacy for a three-year term on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen. As a lifelong resident, he has had the opportunity to witness first-hand the growth and development of Wilmington over the last 50 years. After graduating from Wilmington High School in 1973, he attended Middlesex Community College and studied land development law while helping to raise his daughter Kristen (Wilmington High School, class of 2003). Mark has been very active in local government since the mid 80’s and is very familiar with all the players and most of their objectives. And is best known for his straight forward, no-nonsense approach and his ability to best address the real issues up front and with total transparency, while having no hidden agendas and a policy of not accepting any monetary campaign donations, there are no political favors owed or backrooms deals to be made. The only candidate to push for selectmen to reach out to the Farm owners to purchase the land and build via the “New Model High School” program which offers the town a 60% reimbursement rather than a 50% reimbursement, using simple math and a high bid of $66,000,000, based on those bids from other communities in the state. That results in the town receiving $ 39,600,000 rather than $ 33,000,000, a difference of $ 6,900,000.
Mark Nelson April 10, 2011 at 08:50 PM
. The Town Manager has stated that “The Farm” on Andover Street could be purchased for $ 7,500,000. It was previously believed that The Farm had 62.5 acres; however Mark’s research has shown that there is actually 75 acres, with 10 acres in Andover and the Shawsheen River watershed. The town owns 30 + acres that fronts on Rte. 125 and abuts the 75 acres. This could make for the ultimate location for a “New Model High School”, located on 105 acres of ideal property at a cost of $ 26,400,000, including new sports fields on site. With the possibility of drilling water wells on the 10 acres in Andover, with the hope of eliminating the $ 2,400,000 fee paid annually to the M.W.R.A. The current High School options at 159 Church Street have the burden of attempting to best address the massive oil spill that occurred back in 1984 and the subsequent oil related accidents that followed if any excavation is to occur on site, without any reimbursement from the state. There will be no reimbursement to demolish the current High School (a perfectly fine structure) or to run the much needed sewer main down Church Street from the Public Safety Building.
Mark Nelson April 10, 2011 at 08:50 PM
For years, town fathers have pushed to construct a New Town Hall at the common. If a New Model High School were to be built at The Farm, the current High School would be a perfect location to relocate the Town Hall to and avoid having to fund the construction of a New Town Hall at the old Swain School site, five years from now, again possibly saving another $ 10,000,000. As well as eliminating the health concerns to students, teachers, abutters and workers and costs associated with the hazardous oil contamination currently contained at 159 Church Street (Classified as an A-3 Disposal Site” by the DEP).
Mark Nelson April 10, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Other issues of significant concern in town relate to the selection of the next Town Manager. This is a process that must be undertaken immediately, given the shocking pay raise that was negotiated for over 16 months coupled with the fact that other communities are also looking for the best candidate available with a short list to choose from. We need the absolute best possible candidate, with the education, experience and qualifications to match. The never ending saga with the superfund site at Olin Chemical and the EPA involvement with the landfill and recent developments related to the Maple meadow water quality that flows west to east through the heart of town, and finding the funding to complete the cancer study. Article 10, at the Town Meeting funded the first High School feasibility study, which was presented on March 30, 2008 by Dore Whittier, without mention of any oil contamination at 159 Church Street. Article 11, directed the Town Manager to do a feasibility study for a possible new fire sub-station to best serve North Wilmington, a concern for over 40 years. However the Town Manger has failed to execute the voter’s direction and no study has been completed, very alarming.
Mark Nelson April 10, 2011 at 08:51 PM
The Water quality and total protection of the environment surrounding the Silver Lake area has always been of the utmost importance, the Lake is Wilmington’s most precious natural resource and has been enjoyed by townies for decades. For the superintendent of Public Works to use this area as a dirty snow farm, is irreprehensible and blatant dis-service to the entire community. The I-93, Tri Town Interchange and possible development of property on the west side of 93 near the Sutton Brook superfund site could have a possible impact on the town water supply and the millions of tax dollars currently being invested in the new wells at the town pumping station . However the interchange could prove a great generator of tax revenue to the town taxpayers and show relief to the residential tax bills. The “Town Charter” is in far worse shape than the current High School and just as old, significant changes need to be made immediately and a Charter Commission must be formed to realize those defects.
Mark Nelson April 10, 2011 at 08:51 PM
10 Burlington Avenue, the Old Diamond Crystal, has been an eyesore for years and safety hazard to the children who had turned it into an indoor skate park. The roofs have collapsed and tax revenues are being lost on a daily basis. In closing, Mark as point petitioner has submitted 3 Articles on the Warrant of the upcoming Town meeting. Article 28, seeks to limit elected officials to serve no more than two consecutive terms in office. In the town of Concord, selectmen do not serve more than 2 terms by tradition. Article 34. Is asking that the towns “Official Map” adopted in 1973, be updated if in fact it was adopted properly by statute and is valid, the map is missing over 250 town streets and ways. Article 36, seeks to establish a property tax work off program for dis-abled Veterans, similar to the town’s Senior Citizen tax work off program. The list goes on, make a difference and better your quality of life. One vote for Mark Nelson will go a long way towards protecting your best interests. Mark can be reached at Nelson.Selectman@yahoo.com , by faxing (978)657.0011. Friend on FaceBook and follow the posts @ www.Wilmington.Patch.com ….We always appreciate sign holders on election day, Saturday, April 23, 2011
Bob April 13, 2011 at 11:11 PM
A new high school means the raising of taxes. As it is, it looks like the Feds will increase taxes. Not to mention the slowly increasing cost of living. Filled your gas and oil tanks lately? Been to the super market? Raise the money outside of taxes. This is a bad time for tax increases. I do not support a tax increase.

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