To the Editor:
There was an excellent presentation by the MARS Consulting group at last week’s joint School Committee and Board of Selectmen meeting. I encourage everyone to read the conclusive findings of their comprehensive report posted on the Town of Hull website by clicking on this link: MARS Best Educational Use of School Facilities Concluding Report | Hull Public Schools. I would hope that the School Committee, which will soon be discussing the MARS Report in one of its upcoming public meetings, acknowledges in its deliberations a sense of urgency and the need for action within clearly identified time deadlines on the important matter of school consolidation.
Seven years ago, in 2014, concerned members of this community started a citizens’ petition in respect to school consolidation. Requesting that the School Committee commission an independent study regarding the educational needs and best use of the school buildings, the petition overwhelmingly passed by a 2-to-1 vote in a non-binding referendum question at the ballot box. In addition, similar attempts were made through the years at town meeting, all to no avail. It took until 2019 before the School Committee finally issued a Request for Proposals, which ultimately led to the MARS report.
In mid-March 2020, our world completely shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Hull residents are grateful that the public schools have had ample extra building capacity, unlike most other communities, with which to address the safety needs and educational demands during this pandemic. Going forward, however, the reality is that the excessive financial burdens of continuing to maintain three school buildings at significantly less than capacity means the status quo will not work.
We are all in this together here in Hull, as homeowners or renters, small-business owners, newcomers or longtime residents, older or younger citizens, and taxpayers with or without children in the public schools. We care deeply about our entire community, of which the schools are an integral part, and our tax dollars invested in it. We recognize that a strong and effective public school system is the hallmark of high-caliber communities.
We have long hoped to have a community conversation on our collective vision for the future of Hull given its rapidly changing demographics. According to statistics from the UMass Boston Gerontology Institute on Aging’s public presentation on Jan. 22, 2019, at the Anne Scully Senior Center, more than 35 percent of Hull’s current population (one out of every three people) is over age 60. Hull’s documented growth trends for older adults is projected to continue to surpass all other municipalities in this state. We need to balance the needs of our students with the needs of our elders.
We trust, respect, and want to work together with other like-minded citizens and our various town officials charged with the tremendous responsibility of making decisions concerning school consolidation. Let’s resist creating a public narrative that pits “us” against “them.” Let’s all work together, collaboratively and respectfully, to intelligently decide what’s best for the future of this entire community and all who live in it.