Opinion: The Closing Argument For A New 7-12 School In Belmont [VIDEO]

Photo: Image from the video supporting the debt exclusion for a new 7-12 School.

By Ellen Schreiber and Sara Masucci

Why vote YES on #4?

A YES vote on Question #4 would provide the funding to replace Belmont High School with a new middle and high school – “two schools in one” – to serve grades 7-12.

A YES vote would solve the must-fix problem with overcrowding throughout Belmont’s schools – with one project, in five years, with the least disruption to students and residents.

A YES vote comes with an $80 million state grant that goes away if we do not use it now – and it can only be used for this project. Otherwise, we would likely wait 10+ years for another opportunity for state money.

A YES vote is the least expensive and best solution to the problems in our schools. The alternative is a series of piecemeal projects that will cost more for Belmont taxpayers, create 10+ years of disruption, and result in a much worse solution.

1. We get more and pay less.

High schools are expensive, complicated projects. And in Boston’s construction market, costs are rising 4% every year. If we wait one year, this school will cost another $12 million. Wait two years, and we are in for another $24 million. Wait three years, another $37 million. And so on.

We can’t afford to wait.

And there isn’t a cheaper solution. The state requires that we make prudent responsible decisions or we lose the state grant. This is just what a basic, 21st century high school costs. Want benchmarks? Arlington and Waltham are both planning new schools, but theirs will cost more than ours – over $300 million – for fewer students.

There is no good alternative.

If we vote no, Belmont taxpayers will spend more on a series of projects that do a poor job of patching the problems. We are voting on $213 million for the 7-12 school. The alternative is $247 million for an educational result that does not solve all of the problems.

Financially, the 7-12 school is the most responsible choice.

2. The Problem is Real and Urgent.

In 2012, Belmont High School’s accreditation was put on warning by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, calling it a “crisis” that our building “does not support the delivery of programs.” 

And that was before enrollment really spiked. Our schools are now bursting at the seams. We have added over 700 students in the last 7 years, and that tidal wave is rising through the system and will hit the high school in a few years.

There is no space.

We have “repurposed” every possible space in the buildings – converting closets into classrooms, tutoring students in lobbies, and using hallways as overflow space for classroom projects.

We have added temporary modular classrooms, but they cannot serve our long-term needs.

We have expanded class sizes, but it has gone beyond the tipping point and is impacting the education we provide to Belmont’s children.

The problems in our schools must be fixed. Now.

3. It’s The Right Thing to Do.

In Belmont, we care about our schools. They are a source of pride. Generations of Belmont children have been well-educated and gone on to happy and productive lives.

It’s who we are.

There are a lot of towns next to Boston and Cambridge, but few have what we have in Belmont. This is a great town with a strong sense of community, first-rate local businesses, friendly neighbors … and excellent schools.

Belmont is a great town today because of the decisions of generations who came before us. Now it is our turn to make an investment for future generations.

The choice is clear. Please vote YES on Question #4 on November 6.

Ellen Schreiber and Sara Masucci are leaders of the YES for Belmont committee.

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