~ Letter-to-the-Editor ~
I am writing in response to the Oct. 21, 2022 editorial “Trouble in the Forest,” which was published by The Advocate and which contained mischaracterizations of the plans to build a new Northeast Metro Tech adjacent to the Breakheart Reservation.
In particular, the article said that “Those protesting the forest’s destruction are still in favor of a new Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School, but want it built on a suitable location that benefits all students and where it will cause less damage to wildlife habitat and water runoff.”
Had the author contacted the School Building Committee, or visited the school building project’s website atwww.northeastbuildingproject.com, they would have developed an understanding of the extensive work that went into considering alternative sites. Those alternatives were ultimately ruled out after they were found to be more damaging to the environment through far more encroachment on wetlands, and destruction of sensitive habitats in the area.
The location noted by the opponents to the project would not accommodate the new school and required layout for shops and associated academic spaces. The location was also bound by larger environmental issues, such as proximity to wetlands, two rivers, and no access to an alternate driveway.
Since the committee began its work more than two years ago, protecting the environment has been a top priority, and the committee has been in frequent contact with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to ensure all the agency’s concerns are weighed diligently and seriously. Consultants and designers of the project have also worked to craft the most environmentally friendly proposal possible.
Those plans have been reviewed by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and other state agencies. Plans have also been reviewed, and continue to undergo review, by local boards in Wakefield, including the Conservation Commission, which continues to review the plans and all impacts on wetlands in the area, including vernal pools. The public process and debate surrounding the new school has been extensive and transparent. More recently, opposition emerged, built on mischaracterizations and misunderstandings about the project.
Only the trees that absolutely must be removed to fulfill the voters’ will are going to be, and blasting will occur, all exclusively on land that was granted to the school by the Massachusetts legislature in 1965 for the express purpose of constructing a school. The Breakheart Reservation will remain untouched by this project.
Opponents suggested that students may have difficulty accessing the school from the new parking lot, which will be approximately 60 feet higher than the school facility itself. Those suggestions egregiously mischaracterize the actual plans, which include numerous ADA-compliant parking spaces around entrances on the North, South and West sides of the school building. School buses and parents will also be able to drop students off at the school’s main entrance if needed.
“Trouble in the Forest” also incorrectly indicated that a 720-foot nature walk that will be built along with the new school would serve as a primary means of access. While the nature walk will provide an alternative means of access to the school, it is not the only means, and was designed to give students an opportunity to take in the natural beauty of the area’s environment.
The project we are moving forward with would not have been possible without a lively and critical public debate on issues like protecting the environment. Those who oppose the building project continue to repeat false or misleading claims.
Detailed and documented information regarding the project’s scope has been, is and will remain available onwww.northeastbuildingproject.com, and additional updates will be posted there as the project progresses.
Public input has been the linchpin of this project from its very beginning, and the result will be an environmentally friendly learning environment that will prepare thousands of learners from diverse backgrounds for the workforce of the future.
Superintendent of Northeast Metro Regional Vocational School District