Photo: The Garden Classroom at the Burbank.
To the editor:
In my capacity as Co-President of the Burbank Elementary Parent Teacher Association, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with many students from Minuteman Career and Technical High School. Our gorgeous Garden Classroom would not have been possible without the hard work of students in the Minuteman Horticulture program under the guidance of their excellent teachers Sarah Ard and Peter Kelleher. They collaborated with the PTA to help us turn a sunken pit of weeds into an educationally valuable and beautiful part of the student experience at Burbank. This year, they are helping us turn a neglected patch on one of the school paths into a vibrant garden. Our school community owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Minuteman.
The Board of Selectmen decided that it needed to send a message that the proposed new Minuteman High School would be “too big” for the students who attend. They felt that financial impact on the average Belmont tax bill was too much to spend on this “too big” school (estimates of the impact range from $33-$75 per household). This decision ignored the fact that Minuteman was following the MSBA’s guidelines regarding the size of the school (the MSBA will not contribute to a new school building designed for fewer than 600 students). It ignored the fact that this is the last chance for Minuteman to take advantage of a level of funding no longer available through MSBA. And it ignored the fact that the existing school is in need of $100 million of repairs. Guess who would shoulder that cost if a new school is not built? Taxpayers in member towns, and without the assistance of the MSBA.
The Board’s decision also ignored the impact a new school – one that serves the needs of vocational education in the 21st century – would have on enrollment at Minuteman. The Board of Selectmen does not seem to understand the role that vocational education can and should play in serving our community and in serving the towns that share Minuteman with Belmont. A state of the art facility that provides educational opportunities for fields in high demand in today’s economy – biotech, robotics, health care, fiber optics – along with the vocational stalwarts of plumbing, electricity, and automotive, will better attract the students that could most benefit from a hands-on, experience-based education. And a new facility is much more likely to attract new member towns. Staying with the status quo is more likely to lose students and member towns, further increasing the burden on the municipalities that stay.
I am sorry to say that the Warrant Committee also voted against the new Minuteman, but by a close margin. The other member towns have or are likely to support the plan because they know it is the best option. Town Meeting in Belmont overwhelmingly approved remaining in the Minuteman District, and our town has been part of the planning process every step of the way, do we want to be the town that votes against its future? I am well aware of our other capital obligations in town: Belmont High School, the Library, the Police Station, DPW. But we cannot sacrifice Minuteman High because we have these other concerns. They have been working a long time towards this desperately needed solution, and the students that benefit from it deserve much better than being snubbed by our town.
My sister attended a regional technical high school in Connecticut. It enabled her to begin working right away after high school, and she later went on to run her own business. While this model of technical education – one where graduates are employable from day one – is still a part of the vocational experience, many students at Minuteman continue their education in related fields: medicine, biochemistry, landscape architecture, programming, and much more. It’s a model that works, now more than ever, and our town should support it.