The Battle Over the New High School

Mom columnist Christine MacKenzie says the school debate is sending the wrong message to the town's youth population.

These days, in Wilmington, there seems to be one subject and one subject only; the plans for a new Wilmington High School. It is, without a doubt, the one subject that everyone in town seems to have something to say about. 

I need to make very clear that, as a mom and a lifelong resident of Wilmington I support the plans for a new school 100 percent. I feel strongly that when we, as residents, to approve the plans for a new school we were, at the same time, proving our commitment to the town as well as it’s youngest residents.

Yes, in December as the vote approached, I expressed my support for the project and encouraged other residents to do the same. Today I stand by my words and remain as committed as ever to the plans for a new school. I look forward to a new school and all that it will be able to offer to the residents of our town.

That being said, like most people here in town, I have been following coverage of the high school project right here on Patch.  I read the articles, follow the updates and take an interest in all that is going on.

That means of course that, like everyone else, I have been watching the situation erupt into what can only be described as a virtual war of words. Yes, I do believe that everyone has a right to their opinion even if it doesn’t agree with mine. Yes, I do believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion even when it doesn’t agree with the majority. No, I don’t believe that voicing ones’ opinion means having the right to exchange insults and spread a constant stream of slander.

I don’t believe that making a mockery of our town and our system of government is acceptable and I don’t believe that trying to “undo” the decision already made by the majority is the right thing to do.

Let’s face it. A new high school is about making a commitment to better educate our town’s students. What lesson, exactly, are we teaching those students when we resort to name calling and bickering? What are they learning when adults are reduced to trading sarcastic barbs? What are students learning when town residents vote overwhelmingly to improve our school system and, even then the project can’t get started on time?

The town’s residents have voted overwhelmingly in support of the project, the and, yet, the arguments seem to continue to intensify.   

All in all the whole process seems to have become a “how to” manual in teaching our kids that, even when things are done legally, , they can still go terribly wrong.

I hate to see the example being set for our kids and know that we, as Wilmington residents, can do better than this. I agreed with Town Manager Mike Caira when he called the high school vote the most important decision that the town had to make in the past 40 years and never dreamt that, all these month’s later, progress would be stopped by .

For as long as I can remember this town has stood behind family values and good neighbors. We owe it to all of the town’s kids to set a better example and find a resolution that will help get this project underway.

Scott Munro August 05, 2012 at 09:58 PM
One Pizza = $15 Cost of pizza for one year ( once a month) = $180 Watching Wayne make an ass of himself in public = priceless.
Scott Munro August 05, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Josephine and nurse Kay = voices of reason. Albert Jay Nock would call you the Remnent.
Scott Munro August 05, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Hi Jo, So we probably know each other. :) I have been there as my oldest son graduated last year. We do agree on many things it seems. You need to take the next step: why give people who will not maintain the school a brand new one?
Steven McGinley August 05, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Yes it's ridiculous that were talking about a roof leak, how many times have I heard about this roof leak? They let that building fall apart, just like they let every building in this town fall apart. Not to mention I can’t see if there's anyone qualified to take care of the more complicated systems. I heard from a reliable source that they didn't even change the air filters for a very long time at the new middle school. The point I made before on other topic comments is drive-by the Wildwood Street School and look at the white facial board at the top of the gym (left side), it's an absolute joke that we can't get a coat of paint on that. Or that the ductless air conditioning systems split systems (sorry I know I'm getting technical) that were installed in the North intermediate seem to be installed by people that I wouldn't let handle a garden hoe, let alone install an air-conditioning system. (To the untrained eye look for the pipes that penetrate the building and go out and up to the roof) I could go on and on and on and on. But this should be enough to give Matthew a few nights of writing replies in trying to discredit me. And then like I say drive-by the buildings in Reading and see how professionals do it.
Scott Munro August 05, 2012 at 10:27 PM
We need to add Steve to Nock's army :)
Steven McGinley August 05, 2012 at 11:18 PM
To whoever suggested that the powers that be should have seen these appeals coming? I would say absolutely they must've been counting on it. So I find it a little disingenuous to keep harping on this $3 million that it's going to cost. Maybe we could all come up with ways to save the town money. I'll start: Let’s stop paying our town employees, time and half and double time to plow the snow of private property. Sure back when fuel and labor were cheap it was nice to plow the snow at the church parking lots. I believe though this practice should come to an end.
Josephine MorningStar August 06, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Jackie Wrote: "Did you know there is asbestos in that building ??" I went to the conservation meetings that discussed the new school plans and the redoing of the plans for the first appeal. I sat thru both meetings. And while i had trouble hearing what was said, (no use of microphones) I did NOT hear ONE word of discussion about Asbestos in the old school building or how they had planned for its removal, since it has to be removed from the building BEFORE demolition can be started. So, my question is this, IF there is really asbestos in the building... WHY isnt this being addressed by the various town boards, and meetings? is this one of the tactics used to win the vote?? Please refer to this website http://www.mass.gov/dep/air/asbguid.htm
jo August 06, 2012 at 12:24 AM
haha.. Steven. Or my personal favorite, hanging the flags down Church Street on a Saturday or Sunday. C'mon guys, why the poor planning? You know when 4th of July or Memorial Day is coming, can't we plan to hang them during "working hours"... :)
Wade Samatis Kennedy August 06, 2012 at 12:34 AM
"If I was a talented teacher looking for work and the two choices were working in the dilapidated 62 year old building or the state of the art one... Well, it's going to factor into the decision." That's what I said, that it would factor into the decision. So would many other things, as you listed. We already overwhelming endorsed this school by voting on it. It's time to move on and get it built.
Josephine MorningStar August 06, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Jackie wrote: Where were you people when this was all discussed months ago ??? well, i personally at the time, i had no transportation. and its too far to walk, and the way that people drive on the streets after dark, it would not have been safe to try to 'wheel' my way there. or home.
Scott Munro August 06, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Wayne's deletes his posts s shame. Bye bye.
Christine August 06, 2012 at 03:08 AM
lol it's funny you make this argument when there was a woman recently on the Patch complaining about the exact opposite... I believe she said the churches could no longer be plowed , but that it SHOULD because it was listed as one of the emergency shelters in town.. geez can't make anyone happy...I am all for trying to save money,but first we have to ask why things are the way they are, rather than assume poor intent or misuse is all I'm saying...
Steven McGinley August 11, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Christine we do plow the churches, I was told by the superintendent of the DPW that they plow “all the churches” and I know for sure they plow St. Thomas every snowstorm. I'm entitled to my opinion I don't think we should be doing it.
Steven McGinley August 11, 2012 at 01:01 AM
One of my favorites is Massachusetts and federal labor laws say where entitled to a 15 min. break in the first four hours of our shift. For some of them it takes him 15 min. to get back to North Wilmington from wherever they were working where they can commonly be seen hanging out for 30 to 40 min. then travel time back to their worksite, what's that give them 30 min. work before lunch?
Steven McGinley August 11, 2012 at 01:04 AM
I was at a conservation commission meeting in regards to the new high school where the asbestos was discussed, so for sure there is asbestos in there. That does not necessarily mean it's been a danger to the occupants of the building. It may be isolated to the boiler room or the basement or above the ceilings. Let's hope so anyways. Does anybody know of the health history of the custodians at work there in the 50s 60s and 70s?
Steven McGinley August 11, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Actually I'm not sure that was a conservation commission meeting, it may have been a high school building committee meeting. Just want to make sure I have my facts straight.
Christine August 11, 2012 at 02:10 AM
the argument over whether or not a building=excellence in education is but one piece of the equation. But I'll start with a building and good leadership and go from there...the comparison to schools that are a hundred years old is a joke-- I work near Harvard and MIT and every inch of those buildings has been updated-AND they pay well--if you don't think educated parents look at more than test scores you're just wrong-- Wilmington is doing the updates it needs and the town agrees--at a bargain price!! Steve, I don't either unless it's for the greater good-- shelter? Public use?
Kevin MacDonald August 11, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Just because they discuss something doesn't mean they are telling the truth or are accurate. I question if they are using scare tactics.
Kevin MacDonald August 11, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Christine or Mike, multiply the most expensive cost per square foot in the model in this link by 193,000 (sq. ft. of High School) and tell us where all the money is going. We are told that the school is costing $82 million dollars with no oil clean up. Read carefully this model is union labor. What's wrong with our town officials?http://www.reedconstructiondata.com/rsmeans/models/high-school/massachusetts/boston/
Wade Samatis Kennedy August 11, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Kevin, construction of Lawrence High School cost $68.8 Million in just construction costs. Total project cost was $110 million. Contract date was 2003. Please see the info in this PDF: http://www.learningbydesign.biz/pdf09/hs_lawrence.pdf Phase 1 of the Woburn highschool cost $63 million. I hope that helps put the cost of Wilmington High School in perspective.
Kevin MacDonald August 11, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Thanks Wade, this is very helpful to bolster my claims. Did you notice that Lawrence High School is 565,000 sq. ft. with a cost of $122 per sq. ft. Wilmington's proposed school is Less than 193,000 sq. ft. We are being asked to pay $82 million dollars it does not add up! Where is all the money going? Are you happy with contracts that are not going out for competitive bid on the central register? Even if the sq. ft. cost of the Lawrence High School was doubled it would still not even come close to what we are being asked to pay. Is it time for a state and federal investigation?
Josephine MorningStar August 11, 2012 at 11:55 AM
that would make the school cost $424,870 per square foot. however, i wonder if the cost of demolition of the old school, complete with the cost of the asbestos removal prior to demolition is being added into these costs? I saw the pdf file, VERY PRETTY school and HUGE, for only 3000 students. they are definitely planning for the future. I was unable to attend the meetings that discussed the design of the wilmington school, in comparison to the lawrence school, you brought up Wade, how does the Wilmington school compare? past the cosmetics, is what im asking. How many children will this new building be able to hold comfortably? with the Lawrence school able to hold 3000, in 4 grades, also, the Lawrence school is spread out over 16 acres, making it a nice campus, and how many acres is the Wilmington School going to be on? Is the cost of the Wilmington school also including the cost of the athletic areas? and do we have a price quote on what other schools have spent on similar aspects ?? just curious.
Kevin MacDonald August 11, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Josephine, the current high school educated 1200 students at one time. The new school is only designed to educate 960 students. The proposed school is under 193,000 sq.ft.. The architect stated that to demolish the high school would be 2 million dollars. It's unfortunate the you and so many others don't care to know all the facts before you support something this expensive. It sounds like you have to polish up on your math skills.
Kevin MacDonald August 11, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Nurse Kay August 11, 2012 at 05:59 PM
The asbestos in the High School is no match for the asbestos at the Woburn Street school or many of the other town buildings. There is just no argument for that. By law, it has been sealed up like every other building containing it in this country. No child, teacher, or town employee is exposed to it, again, by law. If asbestos is a main concern for you, I strongly advise you to look into many of our public buildings to get an accurate accord of asbestos. As for leaky roofs... Boutwell School and Town Hall. Need a say more? Who mades these buildings completely flat?
Nurse Kay August 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I feel quite certain the little to no asbestos found in the high school is one of the few non-threatening tactics some are desperately trying to hold onto to win a vote or keep one from flipping to the other side. I too, would imagine that major discussion would be had about the cost of removal BEFORE demolition. If asbestos is a main concern for some, I'd be more concerned with the other schools and public buildings actually containing a good deal of it, despite its complete isolation and law abiding care and sealant.
Scott Munro August 13, 2012 at 11:51 PM
@Kevin you would get more support if you just put the facts out there. Josephine is a more reasonable voice here. Did someone delete posts yet again? Posts of Harvard pop out of no where. Christine why didn't Harvard knock down buildings and rebuild. I thought that is less costly?
Christine August 14, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Scott, Kevin's great at taking helpful advice, I'm sure he will appreciate yours ....just look at how well I listen to you :)
Nurse Kay August 14, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I don't think posts have been deleted. It's a matter of getting off topic. I had this issue with Christine on a different article. I just stop commenting to her/people when I realize how difficult it is for them to stay on point/article at hand, whether we're in agreement or not. I think there is so much discussion on different articles, that for some, the various issues blend together, hence we get off the wall comments, lose focus of topic at hand, or what I like to call "Polly Parrot" comments (where the same person repeats the same thing whether related or not to subject. It's all they know to say). We have a few of them on Patch. It's just hard for some people to keep up on the different articles or discussions when too much information is being thrown at them.
Rebecca October 09, 2012 at 01:13 AM
I am a freshman in college doing a paper on the new Wilmington high school. I was a student from Wilmington High School the past 4 years and I was looking for research in the Wilmington Patch thinking I would get some decent statistics or voices. Instead, I am witnessing a bunch of absolute chaos and very disturbing, immature responses. Hopefully no kids are looking at this because this is an EXTREMELY bad example all of you are setting for children, an absolute disgrace.


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