News Stories, School News

Fox Hill Building Committee Adds Pine Glen Representation

The Fox Hill School building Committee voted Tuesday to add Pine Glen Principal John Lyons as a voting member of the committee as concerns rise that the Fox Hill school renovation or replacement project could result in a joined Fox Hill/Pine Glen school. 

Lyons has been deputized to identify two teachers and and a parent from the Pine Glen community to join the committee as well. 

“I definitely feel more at ease knowing that moving forward Pine Glen will have representation,” said Amanda Hanafin, a Pine Glen teacher and a resident of the district who has spoken in favor of Pine Glen’s being included in the committee. 

The committee may consider changing its name to the Elementary School Building Committee or another name to reflect that more than Fox Hill community is impacted by the committee’s work. 

Burlington has been accepted into the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s program to update or replace Fox Hill Elementary School, and as part of the process, the town is required to consider all possible solutions, even ones that are less than ideal on their face.

The smallest option is simple upgrades to Fox Hill, said Donna DiNisco, president of the design firm DiNisco Design, which is partnering with Burlington on the project. “But in that option, there’s the same layout, and still the same space issues,” she said. 

Another option would be to add space to the existing Fox Hill school, but that would require the school to be empty during construction. “We understand there is no swing space in the district, so this might be an option you may choose to eliminate,” DiNisco said. 

A third option would build a new, larger Fox Hill school on the same property, then demolish the current school once the new one is available. 

More controversial options involve combining Fox Hill and Pine Glen schools into one larger elementary school, which would solve Pine Glen’s repair needs and could save the district money. The Fox Hill School Building Committee is required to consider building a large school for 640 students on the current Fox Hill site and the current Pine Glen site. 

Burlington will find out how much of the various options will be covered by the MSBA once they submit the preliminary design program in July. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, community members voiced concerns about increased traffic with a bigger school, as well as the educational and cultural value of having smaller schools. 

“Big schools are not good for our children, and I think we all know that,” said Fox Hill parent Elizabeth Orfanos. I find myself wondering, why would we build a bigger school? What would the motivation be? When I look at the research, a large bit of it is financial. We are better than that. We don’t take a two-birds-one-stone approach with our children’s education.” 

“I am for keeping the four schools that I grew up with,” said Erica Zola, who attended Fox Hill and now sends her children there. “Everybody knows everybody. It’s a really special feeling for the children and parents going into that school.”

School Committee member Christina Monaco said the clear will of the community to maintain a four-elementary model should carry weight in the committee. “What we really want is Fox Hill and Pine Glen on their sites, and not a mega-school. So every time I come to these meetings and I feel like I’m getting a mega-school shoved down my throat, it gets me really upset.” 

“I just stood here and said we’re looking at all eight of these options equally, so I don’t know how you get that this is being shoved down your throat,” said School Building Committee Chair Melissa Massardo, who is also a School Committee member. 

“That’s just how I feel,” Monaco replied. 

Massardo previously told BNEWS her goal is to “lift up every leaf and lift up every stone” to understand the best course of action. 

Community members will have an opportunity to ask more questions about the project at a virtual forum on Thursday, May 18. The meeting will also be live-streamed on BCAT.