I am a Belmont resident of 23 years, have sent three children through our school system, and am an educational planner and school business official in a nearby school district. It has been clear to me for some time that Belmont’s high school building is on the verge of not being able to serve its students or the residents of Belmont who want excellent schools in their town, value public education, and enjoy the benefits to our quality of life and real estate market.
In addition, there is serious overcrowding at all levels of our system with almost 900 students added since 2004, or 24% growth (MA DESE). This higher enrollment level is seen as the ‘new normal’ by demographers and planners in studies of Greater Boston’s desirable ‘inner core’ – Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Newton, Brookline, Needham and others. Many communities that are further from the metro hub have declining school enrollments.
Here are a few more key points from my perspective:
1) The MSBA has honed a highly effective and rigorous process over the past decade that results in new school buildings that meet community needs, are well-designed and are built on time and on budget. Belmont’s School Building Committee has hired an owner’s project manager, which is a requirement of the MSBA, to ensure that projects are well managed and that the town’s interests are protected.
2) The competition for MSBA dollars is getting increasingly intense – a second chance like this to get $80M in state reimbursement will not come again soon. Not only did Belmont have a 10 year wait to get in, but there are large numbers of deserving projects competing for limited MSBA dollars.
3) Having half of Belmont’s students attend a school in an accessible, central location will provide opportunities to increase bike riders, walkers, bus riders and carpools – this may be our best opportunity to address the issue of automobile traffic and congestion at ALL of our schools.
The 7-12 school will be a tremendous community asset that will address crowding at all schools and replace a facility that is undersized, lacks core instructional classrooms, needs functional lab space for STEAM curriculum, and has mechanical systems that are beyond their useful life. I will say YES on Tuesday, November 6th.