More than 75 people attended the first meeting to consider an alternative site for the 9th Elementary School held at the Brookline High School auditorium
Neil Wishinsky, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, opened the meeting detailing the rapid and ongoing expansion of enrollment growth in Public Schools that started in 2005 and continues today. He summarized the efforts of the Town and School Department to accommodate this growth through dividing classrooms, building classrooms, leasing space, and tolerating core spaces like gyms, cafeterias, and hallways that are two small for the number of students in the schools. Mr. Wishinsky described the legal complexities, conservation restrictions, and the threatened legal challenges from residents that have led the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee to identify a parcel owned by Pine Manor College as a possible alternative site. In voting to expand the sites under consideration, Mr. Wishinsky explained that the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee did not remove the Town-owned Baldwin site from consideration, nor did they authorize the taking of the College property by eminent domain. He quoted the exact language of the vote for those present:
“To modify the prior decision to locate the 9th elementary school on the Baldwin site by expanding the Town’s consideration of other sites to include acquiring land at Pine Manor College and conducting due diligence and obtaining public feedback to make a final decision on site selection.”
Mr. Wishinsky also reiterated that tonight’s meeting was just the first meeting of a public process to consider whether or not the Town should consider the Pine Manor parcel as a possible site and that there would be a Public Hearing on October 16th and numerous other hearings related to Town Meeting Warrant Article #5 relative to the 9th Elementary School. Mr. Wishinsky closed by saying:
“To be clear, we have not made any final decision about the site of the 9th elementary school and will not do so until more study has been completed and all public input is considered. Even then, a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting is required to authorize capital funding for a school project and authorize any taking of private property. Those questions will come before Town Meeting at a future date.”
Mr. Wishinsky then introduced Jonathan Levi, the architect who has been working with the Town and School Department on the 9th Elementary School project.Mr. Levi made a short presentation describing the planning previously completed on the Baldwin site and the upcoming review of the alternative site named by the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee. After reviewing the preferred design option for Baldwin considered by the 9th School Building Committee and the School Committee during spring 2017, he showed a new concept for Baldwin for a school that would fit on the southern portion of the Baldwin School. He explained that this alternative design at Baldwin would be between 3 and 5 stories and would have a greater impact on the existing traffic pattern at Hammond Street, Heath Street and Route 9. Mr. Levi concluded his presentation by showing a map of current and former Pine Manor property and three preliminary conceptual drawing showing how a school building could potentially fit on the Pine Manor parcel under consideration. Mr. Levi stressed that these drawings were made simply to illustrate that the site was large enough for a school building the size needed by the Town.
After Mr. Levi’s presentation, Chairman Wishinsky invited Tom O’Reilly, the President of Pine Manor College to make remarks. Mr. O’Reilly’s statement described the value of Pine Manor to its students, and shared the demographics of its students, their graduation and employment rates, and the perspective of two students and what they value about the college.
The next scheduled meeting on the 9th Elementary School will be a Joint Public Hearing on October 16 at the Brookline High School Auditorium.
Residents are encouraged to provide public comment at the public hearing or in advance via e-mail to Stephanie Orsini at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending it as follows:
Board of Selectmen
Brookline Town Hall, 6th Floor
333 Washington Street
Brookline, MA 02445