Last year one of our children had a wonderful second-grade class in the Belmont schools, with a teacher who got the students to see the value of a “growth mindset” — that is, embracing challenges and looking for new ways to improve, instead of believing that people’s capacities are fixed and innate. There was only one wrinkle: The students were squeezed into a former computer lab, a space that was never designed as a classroom.
In Belmont, even as we enjoy watching our children grow, we are challenged by the massive expansion of the school-aged population. Over eight years, enrollment has increased by an average of over 100 additional students per year. In response, the district has added modular classrooms, re-purposed computer labs and storage rooms, and even has a windowless 5th-grade classroom at Chenery. At the aging, cramped high school, students can barely find space to do homework, classes are spilling into hallways, and our amazing music program barely has room to store its instruments.
Even with excellent teachers and motivated students, it’s harder to have great classroom experiences in spaces intended to house machines or supplies. Fortunately, the town has adopted a growth mindset about the problem. After two years of community input, the Belmont High School Building Committee has helped design a high school and middle school on the same campus, with more room for hands-on learning, better disability access, and vastly improved energy efficiency.
The Belmont 7-12 School would free up an extra grade-worth of space at Chenery and every elementary school, thus helping all kids, K-12, town-wide. And it would cost less than any other solution to our overcrowding crisis, thanks to an $80 million state grant — which we can only obtain if the town votes Yes on November 6.
The Belmont schools have reached the point where short-term fixes just aren’t enough; they need to grow, too. Please join us November 6 in voting Yes on Question 4.
Peter Dizikes, Town Meeting Member, Pct 1