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Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes On the New High School

E-mail your letters to editor to matthew.schooley@patch.com.

Dear Editor, 

Wilmington High School was built in 1950. Over the past 60 years, the school has undergone 5 renovations. According to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, at only 158,500 square feet, the current Wilmington High School building is approximately 20% too small. Their standards dictate that the school should be at least 189,120 square feet. 

Virtually every area of the building lacks the space to adequately educate our children. Classrooms are 15% too small, science labs are 30% too small, and the library/media center is nearly 20% too small. The auditorium is undersized by more than 30%, leaving it woefully ill-equipped for storage, rehearsals and performances.

Most departments simply do not have storage space and are forced to share limited space with other departments. The athletics department has to store items in a hallway, and elements of the gym such as the weight room and wrestling area are inefficient and outmoded.

Teachers lack adequate space for curriculum planning and many of the classrooms in the current building were not designed to be used as classrooms. The custodians’ office, the district’s special education offices, the school’s old library and teacher cafeteria have all had to be converted into classrooms. Print, electronic and auto shops have also been converted into classrooms. Many special education classrooms are shockingly substandard and they are dispersed throughout the building, making it difficult to create a cohesive team teaching environment for those children who need services.

A twenty-first century high school should include small group classrooms for project-based learning and a large lecture hall to familiarize students with that kind of setting in preparation for college. Our current building simply cannot accommodate these learning environments, leaving our children at a disadvantage in a competitive college and work marketplace.

Wilmington High School’s health services department is also deeply affected by a lack of space. The nurse’s office lacks privacy, making it difficult for the school nurse to properly administer necessary care while maintaining students’ right to confidentiality. The school psychologist’s office is headquartered in a former book closet. The guidance office is storing permanent records in an old bathroom.

The truth is that space at the high school is extremely limited and classroom space is inadequate because the building is far too small and outdated. When it was designed and built, the population of the town was substantially smaller than it is today and the technology used in schools was far less advanced.

The limitations of the current Wilmington High School are severe enough to inspire the Massachusetts School Building Authority to guarantee that it will fund more than 50% of the reimbursable costs of a new Wilmington High School.

This building project is not about “enriching Wall Street bankers,” as some have suggested.  This project is about enhancing the educational experience of Wilmington’s children and preparing them to be competitive in college and in the work force. Our children deserve a twenty-first century education. The only way to provide them with that is to build a new high school that has adequate space and that can accommodate current technology for them.

It’s time to end the conspiracy theories, rhetoric and sideshows.  Wilmington knows what it needs to do on December 6 and December 10.  Vote YES for a NEW Wilmington High School. 

Sincerely,

Dawn Reidy

Christine November 04, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Thanks Dawn for taking the time to clarify specific points so we can all be well-informed! It's appreciated!
Daniel November 04, 2011 at 03:57 PM
What a well written and informative letter. Thank you Ms. Reidy.
Mark Nelson November 04, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Thanks Dawn for taking the time to clarify specific points so we can all be well-informed! It's appreciated however view the oil spill photo it is very informitive and $ 500,000 was invested to clean this area, however oil was again discovered just months ago !!!!!!
Daniel November 04, 2011 at 11:50 PM
You know Mr. Nelson it would be nefreshing if you could make your points without ridiculing those you disagree with. Perhaps if you learn the gentle skill or artful pursuasion, you might not come in last every single election year. Just a thought. Have a nice evening.
Mark Nelson November 05, 2011 at 12:06 PM
DID YOU KNOW ? That the current High School serves as a CAP to a MASSIVE OIL SPILL....and the property known as 159 Church St… over 77,000 gallons in the oil plume........
Mark Nelson November 06, 2011 at 11:04 AM
Did you know that the current High School has a value of Buildings 17,020,400 Extra Building Features 0 Outbuildings 41,300 Land 5,969,500 Total: 23,031,200 As determined by the Board of Assessors. and that no figure has been determined yet to demolish the $ 17,020,400 Building. http://data.visionappraisal.com/WilmingtonMA/findpid.asp?iTable=pid&pid=5625
Mark Nelson November 06, 2011 at 11:25 AM
http://data.visionappraisal.com/WilmingtonMA/DEFAULT.asp
Daniel November 06, 2011 at 12:53 PM
That's a good point...public buildings, like any structure designed for more than mere asthetic purposes, lose their functional effectiveness. Architectural spaces should evolve to accomodate human progress. The current building is clearly inadequate and cannot meet the needs of today's students. Our children deserve better.
Steven McGinley November 06, 2011 at 12:58 PM
that number of 3X per Sq ft is total BS and I think you know that.
Steven McGinley November 06, 2011 at 12:59 PM
the town deserves better, why not build a model school?
Daniel November 06, 2011 at 01:08 PM
Model school? You gotta be joking, right? Do you know how much balsa wood that would take?
Mark Nelson November 06, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Did you know that many surrounding towns utilize old High Schools for a Town hall? For example Andover. http://andoverma.gov/selectmen/ click on this link and you will find Town manager. (Reginald "Buzz" Stapczynski was appointed Andover’s Town Manager in 1990. He has a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor's degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. Prior to coming to Andover Buzz was the Town Manager in Wilmington, Massachusetts for 9 ½ years. He also served as Wilmington's Assistant Town Manager for several years. Buzz resides in Andover with his wife Sandy and his two sons. Buzz was Town manger of Wilmington when the oil leaks were discovered. He called it "Catastrophic" email him and ask him. I did. Town of a New Town Hall at the Common has been sought after for many years.
Steven McGinley November 06, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Well Dawn I have been working in construction all my life and I stand by my statement, you people are twisting the numbers, anyone can see that. I heard her say that at the meeting and it's just not true. Maybe at best it could be said that in some circumstances remodeling could cost up to three times more. So it's taking us general statement and applying it to this situation and that’s misleading and that's part of what bothers me about this process. And again there is no way that's true. So what you're telling me is that to remodel that school would cost $240,000,000. Come on who do you think you kidding.
Steven McGinley November 06, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Another point you make that would carry no weight with anybody that's worked in the school is the shuffling and use of different spaces. This is done every year in every school, even brand-new ones. I work quite frequently at what is now a three-year-old high school in our area and every summer since it's become occupied they have rearranged spaces. So much of this is about keeping up with the Jones’ if you drive out to be on 495 to the central and western part of the state and look at the public safety, middle school and high school buildings they build out their where budgets are tighter, you can see they make their money stretch much farther than anyone around here would care to.
Steven McGinley November 06, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Dawn I'm sorry if you view that is something of a personal attack and I can see how it may have come across that way. But I had heard that number before from watching the 90 min. video of the meeting and new that number came from an architect on the building committee. It was in no way meant to be anything personal I should have phrased it differently. I believe the number is total BS. I could not find any estimates anywhere close to that with a 20 to 30 min. of plugging different things into Google last night. what I have heard most over the years is that it may cost you more I've never heard anybody talk about numbers like two or three times. I too work at Harvard, and then MIT, Tufts and different commercial and industrial type buildings all over Eastern Massachusetts including many school systems. In practical experience that just could not be true because there are way more buildings inside 495 that are being remodeled and in comparison a miniscule number of private developers tearing buildings down and building new.
William November 07, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Thank you Dawn for a well written commentary on why we need a new high school. Steve. If I was Dawn I would take your words as a personal attack too. You accused her of "twisting numbers" and called her statement "BS." That's not constructive. It is a personal attack. End of story. I'm more likely to believe someone who quotes an architect than some guy who plugs stuff into Google for a half an hour. That comment about square footage renovations being 3 times as much as a new building makes sense to me. Obviously nobody is going to do a $240,000,000 renovation. What would happen is that they would do bits and pieces and try to barely make the place workable. There is no plan possible that will meet everyone's ideal high school. Everyone has differences of opinion. From what I heard, if we don't build this (which they have had many, many public meetings for) we will lose the grant from the state and this won't be possible again for many years if at all. Sometimes we have to compromise. I'm voting for this. I don't even have kids in the schools, but I want this town to be it's best.
Karl Ian Sagal November 15, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Steven McGinley, Thank you. A voice of reason. Of course, do not expect to be well received, as you appear to not be consuming your appropriate share of cool-aide. I mentioned the Quarter Billion dollars that 3 times the cost to renovate the high school was told to be in that meeting, and people called me out, yet no one felt the need to ask Randi if that made actual sense to her. As far as the building being too small, as was stated many times in Dawn's letter, that may be so, but only because teaching styles have changed, not because of population shifts as she said. That same building has housed over 1000 students in the past. Many got excellent educations in spite in being in a 10% more crowded building. I have advocated for a new Science and technology wing. It would have some features that would, for a far lesser cost do many things. It would increase the total space in the building, so ease some of the over crowding. It would be state of the art, where the state of the art has changed. An English classroom does not have the upgrade technology requirements that a science lab does. To make new English classrooms and say they are needed is missing the point. Some of the new classrooms in the new school will be smaller than some of the class rooms in the old school, so saying that the classes are too small is a straw man. Some are, some are not.
Karl Ian Sagal November 15, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Dawn mentioned that some of the physical education portions of the building are too small, but I was at the meeting where they explained that the current gym and facilities are too large to be replaced, so the current standards require that when torn down, they will be replaced with smaller facilities. Since that earlier meeting, where they were trying to find a way to keep our larger gym, they have decided on a design where the gym will be torn down, and several classes graduating over the next few years will have to live with no gym at all, if this is passed, then future classes will have smaller facilities. Again, I ask why so few are willing to discuss the new Middle School, with lower MCAS scores. If this new building is so vital to the education to the students, that should not be so. This new building will have much more room for the teachers. This is wonderful. People should look carefully at the ratio of student space to total space in the current high school, and compare it to faculty space to total space. Then do the same with the plans for the new school. You may be surprised to see modest space increases for students, but exponential increases for faculty and non-student space. This will make it a nicer place to work. I hope this translates to better education, but it is not an automatic result. Again, there are new schools with lower MCAS scores, and older ones with higher. One does not automatically result in the other.
Steven McGinley November 15, 2011 at 02:03 AM
William, you seem to have missed my point of working in construction since 1978. And please don't reply to my comments unless you are going your full name. And I don't know how else to say it, BS is BS, would you preferred I called her a liar? To say her statement was inaccurate is in itself inaccurate as I did not believe in reading it that she was being honest. That's my opinion and I'm entitled to it. I have since been told by people on the committee that that number in her statement was totally untrue. It's also clear in the meeting minutes that that number had never been talked about. The number that is talked about is exactly what I said, as much and no more. So you can believe what you want and again please don't respond to me anonymously. And I don't have kids either in that school in its present plan would increase the property value of a property I plan to be selling soon. And I'm willing to lose that gain just because I think this whole process has been corrupt and filled with Mis truths, spin, and out right lies.
Christine November 15, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Mr. Sagal, As an educator and a parent of a middle schooler, I am ready to have the discussion. There is always room for improvement and we could use an academic forum in town. Good things are happening, as are disappoinments, but we would all be better served with a voice. As for the new high school, a building is a foundation , and I believe we would serve our town well to provide an updated, modern, attractive and comfortable facility..And after the school is built will come the real test-including a long term plan for technology and STEM classes currently lacking. When a larger number of parents in Wilmington take a more active role in the curriculum, the teaching methodology, the staffing choices and their own students' learning..that's when you'll see those gains that no building-- OLD or NEW-- can ever guarantee...
Robert Hayes November 15, 2011 at 03:08 AM
Mr. Sagal: Just as a point of clarification, the new gym will be the same size as the old gym. (Technically, it will be 50 sq. feet larger.) You are correct, however, that WHS will, unfortunately, be without a gym for two years. I encourage everyone to look at the floor plans: http://www.wilmington.k12.ma.us/HSBC/2011-10-13%20Public%20Forum%20IV%20Final.pdf. I woud suggest that having 2 teacher planning spaces on the second floor and 2 teacher planning spaces on the third floor is NOT excessive. I agree that buildings don't educate, teachers do. But buildings certainly affect the educational process. Wilmington High School is full of barriers to learning. Administration tells me this. Teachers tell me this. Students tell me this. Parents tell me this. My two eyes tell me this -- both now and when I was a student. The school is supposed to help -- not hinder -- in the delivery of education. The MCAS results at the Middle School are disappointing. I've said this both publicy and privately. In fact, I expressed my frustration to the Middle School Principal at the last School Committee Meeting. Beyond that, I can't say anything more on the matter until the School Committee approves WMS's School Improvement Plan at our next meeting. And I'll have a lot to say then. I genuinely hope that all those expressing their concerrns over the Middle School MCAS scores maintain their concern after the high school votes are taken.
Steven McGinley November 15, 2011 at 03:21 AM
This is all about my use of the term BS. I mean come on! I'm so sorry I did not take the time to write in a more respectful manner. The bottom line is though I cannot change how I felt when I read your statement. If you people want to crucify me for being honest be in a questionable manner then go ahead! I had read your statement a few days after I watched the 90 min. video of the last building committee meeting. In that meeting I had heard that woman get up and use that same number. Which I felt at that the time was in an outright lie. Again I believe my opinion on that was qualified and I'm entitled to my opinion. When I read it in your post now hearing it for the second time I became irritated and I again I wholeheartedly apologize to you. I should have taken the time and wrote a few paragraphs as I did the following night. And in those following posts I explained to you that I have been working in construction and related service industries for thirty years and I have never heard that number.
Steven McGinley November 15, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Because of this I just spent my entire evening reading the minutes of every HSBC meeting since the formation of the committee. Nowhere is there a number any greater than remodeling cost being equal to new construction costs. Just as I stated that is the number I have most often heard throughout my career. Also tonight and I don't believe it would be proper for me to use his name but a member of the HSBC has contacted me telling me that and here are his words ” I think Randi Holalnd (the architect in the audience) was either speaking generally (not specific to this project); was referring to portions of the building (not the entire thing); or just plain mispoke.” Now I'm not going to go back and sit through that video again but I believe she did misrepresent herself and was speaking specifically to this project.
Robert Hayes November 15, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Dawn -- MSBA said a full renovation/addition (with classroom sizes at state standards & bringing all aspects up to code) would be slightly less than the new construction option. HOWEVER, it was the least cost effective option; had the longest completion time (2016!); created the most disruption to students (heavy use of portable classrooms, which are not reimburseable by the state); would result in the relocation of the Roman House (again, not reimbursable); and - ultimately - not give us many of the 21st century educational features (e.g., small classrooms for project-based learning; a buidling layout conducive to interdiscplinary learning; a lecture hall to prepare students for the college setting; etc.) that a new school will. Here's some more info: http://www.wilmington.k12.ma.us/HSBC/Public%20Forum%20Final%202011-05-12.pdf.
Steven McGinley November 15, 2011 at 03:26 AM
I offered you an apology over a week ago, you didn't reply to that. William however (or whoever), read my first comment and told me what for and how to…., without reading or caring to include my qualifications making a joke about my 20 min. Google search. At least I'm trying to get my facts straight and do my research I'm not just throwing numbers out there.
Steven McGinley November 15, 2011 at 03:31 AM
The really funny part about this is I do agree there is a need for new school. But it's all this spin and backroom politics, and trying to suffocate freedom of speech, that has me so sickened me that even though it's in my best financial interest for them to build a beautiful new school in my neighborhood I will still vote against it.
Steven McGinley November 15, 2011 at 03:38 AM
And Dawn you're going to get your new school, or so I'm told by people familiar with our towns demographic and that of other towns who have voted for these overrides and new schools. It should be a landslide for you. I will be unchecking myself so I don't get the e-mails and will no longer be responding to any post.
Karl Ian Sagal November 15, 2011 at 03:53 AM
Dawn Reidy, While I believe your letter was misguided, and I said so, I do not believe it was intended to defraud. I hope my criticisms were not out of line in your eyes. Robert Hayes, I respect you, and appreciate your honesty and admission that Randi Holland's statements did not match the facts you just stated. You may have stated that elsewhere, but I have not seen it. My primary complaint with this whole process has been the blatant dishonesty in the the extreme positions to jam it down everyone's throat. I see it similar to the jam that was tried with the library. The refusal to compromise and listen to anyone was the downfall of that attempt. I honestly believe that the library could have been a great asset to the town, if a compromise of a 4 or 5 $mil addition was made on the new lands. We would have much more than we have now. The lesson learned from that has been contrarian however. The over the top rhetoric about how the world will end, and all students in Wilmington will be babbling fools unless we build this new building is the attitude that I have perceived. (Please readers, realize I am using a tiny bit of poetic license here) I believe that if the honest truth were laid out, a new building may be the choice of the town. I know I would have gone for the new science wing instead. But instead of honest debate, we get political vitriol, and precious little truth. And one big lie begets the next, till neither side is believable.

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