Letter to Gazette: “Don’t rush into a decision on school closure”

Saturday’s Gazette publishes a letter from Keith and Amy Wilson of Northampton. Keith is a member of Northampton’s Planning Board. Here the Wilsons are writing in their personal capacity as residents, asking city officials to take their time as they weigh the fate of our elementary schools:

…the many factors that go into this decision cannot be given adequate consideration in the space of a month.

It appears that Bridge Street School has been cited as the primary target for closing. This school is located within existing high-density residential neighborhoods and is easily accessible by walking, bicycling and public transportation. The practice of encouraging daily exercise, reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and increasing our everyday communication with our neighbors adds to the value, warmth and vitality of our city.

After a two-year process that involved significant public input, the city has adopted a Sustainability Plan [link] that promotes infill development in the urban core and alternative forms of transportation. This is the first real test of the city’s commitment to this plan…

See also:

325 Petition Signatures and Counting: Sustainable Northampton Public Schools Joins Northampton Education Action Team (3/27/08)
The outpouring from the community regarding the potential closing of a
school has been remarkable and uplifting. We’re up to 325 signatures,
and we’ve got until Monday when we’re going to deliver a copy of the
letter and signers to each school committee member’s home. Let’s get to
500!! The text of the letter is below.

Who haven’t you asked yet? Which neighbor/co-worker/fellow carpooler
have you missed? Show them the letter (or send it in an email), hear
them (or read them) say yes loud and clear, and send an email to pschwartz@nationalpriorities.org with their name…

Read the petition here.

April 12: Garden Clean Up/Community Rally for Bridge Street School (3/26/08)

Mayor Presents Latest Northampton City Budget, Proposed School Budget Reductions (3/24/08)
Superintendent Rodriguez-Babcock said the school system aims to
present its recommendations to the Mayor by the end of April. It is
possible they will recommend the closure of Bridge Street School. Some
members in the audience felt that making such a major and
hard-to-reverse decision in such a short time was hasty.

Closing Bridge Street School Contradicts Smart Growth Goals (3/19/08)
On page 11 of the Sustainable Northampton Plan, Land Use objective number 5 states:

Locate housing within walking distances along safe paths, or with
bicycle access, to and from neighborhood commercial areas, parks and
recreation, schools, and public transportation.

On page 51, one metric of progress is “Percent of children able to walk to school”.

It is well known that mothers of young children are heavy users of cars. The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership reports (2002, emphasis added):

Children have become highly dependent on adults with cars, because the
places where they learn or play often can’t be reached by foot or by
bicycle. As
suburban schools consolidate into larger buildings and recreation
centers are built far from residential areas, parents find themselves
left with no choice but to drive their kids just about everywhere…