I’m writing in response to Northeast School Building Committee’s recent letter to the Wakefield Daily Item titled “Debunking inaccurate claims about Northeast.” I read the letter with an open mind, as I am very interested to hear both sides of the issue. Admittedly, I am just recently becoming more familiar with the details surrounding the controversy of the chosen site for the new Northeast Metro Tech school facility. The extent of my contribution to date has been to vote in favor of the new school. I recall rushing home from my full-time job and arriving just in the nick of time, with moments to spare, in order to cast my vote. I was thrilled when the vote was passed in favor.
However, when I voted I had absolutely no idea this meant a large swath of mature, virgin forest would be clear-cut for the new school site. Had I known this, I would at the very least wanted to know more about why this was necessary. Most likely I would have pushed for another option before agreeing to the new school. Soon after I moved to Wakefield in 1989, a section behind my house was clear-cut to make way for an entirely new street. Although the neighbors are great, it was heartbreaking to hear the sound of so many trees crashing down, and to this day I still mourn the loss of beautiful, pristine habitat.
I viewed NortheastBuildingProject.com to review the information and FAQs. As an Engineer with experience in Design and Construction of major facilities (in a different industry), I am quite familiar with the long, drawn out process to arrive at the final desired product. There are meetings, meetings, and more meetings. There are multiple drawings and documents, with multiple revisions. There are codes, standards, and procedures to follow. The process is lengthy and arduous. Thus, I understand the frustration by the proponents of the school site when they are getting so close to the finish line and opponents step in and speak out against the current design.
However, one thing that jumped out at me while reviewing the “Questions and Answers” section on NortheastBuildingProject.com was the following response to the question “How/why was the new school construction option chosen?”:
“Options were evaluated by the SBC for their ability to satisfy the following key criteria:
- Ability to accommodate educational delivery plan
- Cost versus MSBA reimbursement and long-term value
- Disruption to existing school’s operations
- Flexibility of design to allow for change in the future / expansion potential
- Final site layout: site access, vehicular circulation, safety & security
- Operating costs/maintenance
The selected option was found to be most advantageous in all key criteria established above.”
What I DON’T see in the bulleted list is something along the lines of:
- Minimal environmental impact
Whether or not opponents of the project are making erroneous claims as you state, the fact remains that this project does not consider the best options to avoid clear-cutting 13.5 acres (amount cited per the Boston Globe). The committee selected “the best site for students and their education.” However, what about the best site that also preserves a rare, natural habitat? Trees will be planted, but that cannot make up for the huge loss in established habitat that includes a diverse ecosystem with a multitude of innocent creatures, including rare species, that have no voice and depend on the forest for their survival. I am hoping to be that voice.
Forests benefit humans in multiple ways as well, including improved mental health, stress relief, air purification, water purification, fighting the greenhouse effect, and flood control. Although we have minimal and dwindling natural resources left, avoiding clear-cutting a mature, virgin forest was never prioritized by the committee.
In addition, the “Questions and Answers” section of the website stated the NEMT project team estimated the number of trees that may be impacted is approximately 260. That is a far cry from 2,000 trees quoted elsewhere. The estimate of 260 trees seems pretty low for 13.5 acres of forest.
I also became skeptical when the question “Where will the new school be located?” was answered with “See graphic below. The new school will be located on the same site as the existing school…” This statement is misleading. One would need to study the graphic and understand the “site” discussed is actually the entire site transferred to the school from the state long ago, which includes the many acres of pristine forest.
I implore the Northeast School Building Committee to revisit other options to see if there is ANY possible solution to avoid destroying a rare, natural habitat. Consider both the academic AND environmental future for the students. There has got to be some way, perhaps thinking outside the box, making some kind of compromise, etc. The majority of work has already been done. It’s not unheard of to make late phase design changes. It’s never too late to do the right thing.
Sherri Carlson, supporter of both building the new Northeast Metro Tech school AND preserving a rare pristine, established natural habitat