News Stories, School News

Community Discusses Future of Fox Hill and Pine Glen

In a community forum with the Burlington School Building Committee and representatives of the project design firm, community members voiced concerns and asked for clarification about the process. 

The concerns were similar to ones raised at other points: Increased traffic in the Fox Hill neighborhood, potentially poorer educational outcomes for students in larger schools, and the loss of distinct identities for two school communities. 

Participant Adam Heisler asked the committee to expand its traffic study to streets beyond Fox Hill. “I’m here in the afternoon and I see the buses all piling up. If it’s garbage day, there’s garbage trucks. No sidewalks. Lots of kids walking home. It’s just about safety for the kids, and if you double the size of Fox Hill, that will only get worse.” 

The forum comes as Burlington gets closer to submitting its preliminary design program to the Massachusetts School Building Authority as part of an effort to update or replace Fox Hill Elementary School. As part of the process, the town is required to consider all possible options, including several that involve combining Fox Hill with Pine Glen Elementary School either on the current Fox Hill site or the current Pine Glen location. 

“I understand that getting money from the MSBA implies that they get a little bit of control, but I’m concerned that we’re not pushing back enough on some things that are not necessarily accurate,” said participant John Iler, who is the chair of Burlington’s Ways and Means Committee. “For instance, I’m suspicious about the population projections that are being made.” 

According to previous presentations, the MSBA estimates that Burlington will lose about 100 elementary-aged children over the next 10 years.  

In previous meetings, community members, including School Committee members, voiced concerns that plans for a larger “mega-school” were being prioritized over models that kept Pine Glen and Fox Hill separate. 

 “MSBA says you get one project, one site,” said Donna DiNisco, president of the design firm DiNisco Design. “So they’re actually thinking they’re helping you. They’re giving you an opportunity to solve two of your school problems with one project. But it has to be one building, one site. And they’ll agree that their program isn’t for everyone, and so if you don’t want to play by their rules, that’s fine; there’s a line of communities that would be willing to do so behind you.”

During the presentation, DiNisco asked participants to rank their priorities for the school out of eight possible choices. A total of 75 participants responded, saying their top three choices were educational benefits, site considerations, and equity to other elementary schools. Lower priorities were cost and schedule, building design, construction impacts, and sustainability, with the lowest priority being operational costs. 

“These will probably shift a little bit, but everyone agrees that the educational benefits are probably the top priority for this project, which is great,” DiNisco said. 

DiNisco emphasized the School Building Committee will continue to prioritize community engagement. “This is just a start, and we really look forward to bringing you along on our journey,” she said.