Waltham High School Building Project
A high quality educational program is one of the most important things a city can provide to its residents; although not all of us will send children through the Waltham Public School system, we all benefit from well educated young people who are given an education that meets their individual needs. The Waltham School and School Building Committees have developed a long-term education plan for Waltham, available here, which balances college prep courses with career and vocational training. This plan would serve the needs of Waltham’s children for decades to come, but requires the construction of a new high school; additional project information is available here.
Three sites have been considered as of June 2017 for the new high school building: re-using the current property, building on the site of the former Fernald Developmental Center, or purchasing the property currently owned by the Stigmatine Fathers. The Stigmatine property presents many advantages, including its large size and location near but not directly adjacent to the current high school.
The mayor recently requested that the City Council approve a higher bond appropriation for the purchase of the Stigmatine property, adding $7.4 million to the earlier bid of $18 million. The council ruled this request out of order, effectively shutting off negotiations for the time being. I believe the possibility of using the Stigmatine site for the new high school is not yet out of reach, and if elected, I will support increasing our bid to secure this site. However, if we are not able to negotiate an agreement with the Stigmatine organization that serves the needs of our community and fulfills their wishes, I will support an Eminent Domain taking.
This was certainly a complex decision, and I respect the current city council for wrestling with this issue and doing what they believed was best for the city. However, I supported using eminent domain to acquire the Stigmatine property and was disappointed by the vote. I do not think governments should use eminent domain casually, but I also believe the long-term needs of Waltham’s public schools outweigh the needs of the current property owners.
I trust the School and School Building Committees to continue their hard work in determining what site will best meet the needs of our community, and I look forward to supporting their recommendations. I hope that I will earn the opportunity to work with them to select and acquire a site for the new Waltham High School, and to fully fund this project. I will give full and careful consideration to any plan that requires input from the City Council, and will balance the needs of Waltham’s students and families against concerns that arise as this important work moves forward.