Video: School Committee Meeting of November 13; Citizens Ask Bridge Street School Be Saved

Here is a complete Google video of Northampton’s School Committee meeting of November 13. The video is 2 hours and 7 minutes long, and was recorded by Lachlan Ziegler. The agenda of this meeting is available here.

In the public comment period at the start of the meeting, two citizens spoke in favor of saving Bridge Street School from closure:

Sarah H., Elizabeth Street: “…I’m really concerned about the Bridge Street School closing, and it’s a major concern to me and many people in the neighborhood who want to walk our children to school and not have to bus them places that are further out… There’s a tight-knit neighborhood there. We have a lot of young families who have just moved in with kids… My daughter is almost four. She’s not at Bridge Street, but that’s where we’re planning to go. We bought a two-family house, 30-year mortgage, we’re not going anywhere… There are so many people in our neighborhood who have children who are five and under, who are there to go to Bridge Street School… I couldn’t bring them all tonight, because they are putting their kids to bed. So, I’m here speaking on their behalf, and hoping that you’ll see a way to make sure it stays open for the next twenty years or more…”

Barbara E., Union Street: “…Just to echo what Sarah just said, we moved there to put my three-year-old daughter in a school that I could walk her to… Our backyard…leads to the parking lot there and I would hate to see it not be the lovely, active place that I see every day and the kids that I hear playing… I’d like to see my daughter there some day. Thank you.”

See also:

Bridge Street School in Peril
I am upset that people would speak publicly to the extent they did last
night about a possibility not yet realized. Also, it is my
understanding that the strengths identified by the strategic planning
committee include small, neighborhood schools. I hope the committee is
not shortsighted about these findings but will use them in order to
preserve our school and all others in the city.

Ward 3 Neighborhood Association: Statement of Support for Bridge Street Elementary School (9/19/08)
As a school, Bridge Street Elementary greatly contributes to the overall vitality and health of Ward 3.

Not only do we greatly value Bridge Street’s considerable academic
achievement, we value the school for its role in our community as a hub
for neighborhood social and civic activities.

Furthermore, in light of this relationship, we strongly support the
on-going vitality of all Northampton neighborhood schools for the
breadth of activities they offer and the sense of community they

Closing Bridge Street School Contradicts Smart Growth Goals
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…

New Urban News: “Principles of the New Urbanism”
The heart of the New Urbanism is in the design of neighborhoods, which
can be defined by 13 elements, according to town planners Andres Duany
and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, two of the founders of the Congress for
the New Urbanism. An authentic neighborhood contains most of these

…6) An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home…

David Goldberg, “Of Sprawl Schools and Small Schools”
As recently as 1969 roughly half of all students walked or biked to
school. In 2001 the number was closer to one in 10. A study in South
Carolina discovered that children are four times as likely to walk to
schools built before
1983 than to those built after that year. The report attributed the
largely to the increasingly remote and pedestrian-hostile settings of
newer schools. Of course, kids generally are less active today, and
one reason the rates of obesity and physical inactivity among kids have
risen so that 30 percent of our kids are overweight or obese and a
of middle and high schoolers are sedentary. At
the same time, the rise in rush-hour traffic associated
with school trips has been identified by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a key
contributor to air quality problems in a number of

Meanwhile, there is mounting evidence that
the impersonal environment of the mega-school
inhibits the basic function of the school; that is,
giving kids the best education possible. This
realization has given rise to a growing movement
for small schools, a cause gaining an
increasingly high profile with the involvement
of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and
many others…

Smaller schools have lower drop-out rates
and higher average scores on standardized tests. Children in high-poverty
schools see an even more pronounced improvement. While it’s true that
larger schools generally do show a small savings on spending per student,
when that figure is computed for students who actually graduate, the per graduate
cost per student actually is slightly lower. Larger schools can
have more extracurricular offerings, but participation in after-school activities
declines as schools get larger. A U.S. Department of Education report
found that schools with over 1,000 students have much higher rates of
crime and vandalism than schools with 300 or fewer students. And teacher
satisfaction is higher in smaller schools, according to a Chicago study.

On Common Ground: “The ABCs of Smart Growth Spell Out the Community School Vision” (PDF, Winter 2005)
Community school advocates and leaders of the Smart Growth
movement have joined forces in an informal alliance promoting
community schools as a focal point of both new communities
and the restoration of decaying inner city neighborhoods.
They are drawing strength from education reformers who have
concluded that small schools are better for kids than the megaschools
that school districts have tended to build on vacant land on
the edge of town. Their research shows that children attending
smaller schools get better grades, participate more in school activities
and are more likely to go to college.

“Back to School for Planners”
Schools contribute to the economic life and vitality of their
neighborhoods. When a community lacks a school, fewer new residents
move there and property values decline.

Education World: “Are Smaller Schools Better Schools?” (7/20/00)
Although a variety of factors affect student achievement, the greatest
factor was the reduction of anonymity — going to a school where
someone knows you and your name. Being known by your teachers and peers
makes a difference, Wasley noted.