School choice


Most of us know at least one person who grew up in Wakefield, attended Wakefield Public Schools and then had to reluctantly leave his hometown as it became increasingly unaffordable.

Well, living in Wakefield is about to get even more expensive, if the current plans for a new high school go through.

The average single-family homeowner would see his taxes increase by $1,384 a year, or about $115 a month for the next 30 years, to pay for the planned $273.7 million school.

Regardless of the need for a new high school, this project will sink or swim on affordability. And that hurdle just got a lot higher.

The new $273.7 million cost estimate is $53 million (20 percent) higher than the already stunning figure of $220 million put out last spring. With the affordability argument essentially out the window, advocates will have to sell voters on the “need” for a new school. It’s all they’ve got at this point.

To advocate for a new high school, a ballot committee has been formed, called “Yes for WMHS.” It’s their job to convince you to vote for the new $273 million-high school, first at a Special Town Meeting in January and then at Special Election a month or so later.

You’ll be happy to know that the patriarchy is alive and well at Yes for WMHS. The four officers listed on their Statement of Organization filed with the Town Clerk are Michael Scollo, Andy Bray, Ken Duval and Robert Bradley.

This manly group has created a new web site to convince you of the dire need for a new Wakefield Memorial High School.

Under the heading, “Why does Wakefield need a new high school?” the web site discusses the age of the current building.

“Large sections of the current WMHS building are more than half a century old, built in an era when television was a novelty,” the advocates assert.

Half a century old! Did they determine that through carbon dating?

The current high school was built 62 years ago. That’s within living memory. Old-timers will recall that in 1960, virtually every American household had at least one television. There were 52 million TV sets in the United States that year. Some “novelty.”

How old are the people writing this stuff?

The Yes for WMHS web site maintains that new schools like the Woodville, the Dolbeare and the Galvin Middle School “have drawn new families to Wakefield and ensured residents stay here. In short, a new WMHS is key to ensuring Wakefield remains an attractive place in which to live, work, and raise a family.”

They must be referring to young, upper income families. They can’t be talking about working families already here and struggling to make ends meet. And this project is certainly not going to “help our senior citizens age in place,” as our very caring and compassionate elected officials like to say.

One local retiree put it succinctly at one of the recent community forums on the project.

“If I move, I want to move because I want to,” he said, “not because I’m being taxed out of Wakefield.”

It’s sad that this project has coincided with a tanking economy. They might have had an easier time selling it if residents weren’t seeing double digit inflation erode their buying power and looking at paying two or three times more than usual to heat their homes this winter.

The very same economic pressures that are driving up the cost of a new high school are also crushing the “working families” that our public officials claim to care so much about.

Over the next few months, they may find ways to trim a little around the edges in hopes of making the project slightly more palatable. But even at the original price of $220 million, it was going to be a tough sell. And it’s hard to imagine them getting anywhere close to that number again.

It would behoove everyone, especially taxpaying property-owners, to pay close attention over the next couple of months.

You can’t afford not to.

[This column originally appeared in the November 3, 2022 Wakefield Daily Item.]

2 Responses to “School choice”

  1. 1 Nancy Trimper

    My parents bought the first TV i Melrose in Yes, 1948!! so I would not think it was in it’s infancy 50 or 60 years ago.This is a big con job.
    Also, why were the schools built so poorly that they have to be replaced? the Greenwood school is much older and still in use. If they must build a new one I hope they think ahead and build it to last. i am a senior citizen and I won’t be around too many more years to pay for this travesty but I am sorry for the young people who can’t afford a house at all and certainly not in Wakefield. We are in a recession, heading for a depression , this is no time to be undertaking this very expensive project.

    • 2 Dr. Ed

      Remember that the majority of the school, including all the science classrooms/labs, was built in 1975 to to replace the Atwell High School that was burned down by a police officer.

      It’s only 47 years old, far younger than most of the HOUSES in Wakefield.

      Even still, it’s one thing to build a MSBA-spec school, another thing to build a Taj Mahal….

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