This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Something Old and Something New

Both the city's oldest and newest school buildings were the focus of attention this past week.

Briscoe Middle School, built in 1923, and originally the city's high school, received some much needed landscaping attention, thanks to a volunteer effort led by Briscoe parent Kathy Whitehair.

Whitehair, and dozens of volunteers of all ages spent Saturday muching, planting, weeding, and watering. In addition to the volunteers working in the field, many others donated toward the trees, shrubs, and plants the were used in the project.

Yesterday's Salem News had details on the effort.

The landscape mirrors the original design plans from when the school was built in 1923, said mother Kathy Whitehair, one of the volunteers leading the effort. Through fundraisers and donations, they were able to plant everything from Virginia sweetspire shrubs, which turn a deep scarlet in the fall; to Kousa Dogwood trees, which bloom creamy white flowers in the summer; to hardy, dark green boxwood bushes.

The highlight, Whitehair said, are six American elm trees planted along Colon Street. They were each donated by all five of the elementary schools and McKeown, which closed last year as an elementary school and reopened as an alternative secondary school. The line of trees has been named "Elementary Way."

The next step is to bring in new granite planters, benches and more attractive trash cans, and to install nicer-looking bike racks. The landscaping project is only the beginning.

"It will build spirit and pride," Whitehair said. "And people can take ownership in their middle school."

Meanwhile, up the road a ways, the new Beverly High School reachced a milestone on Monday. The final beam of the new structure was put into place before a small crowd of onlookers. It was painted white and signed by high school class officers. On the right flew an American flag, to symbolize good luck, and on the left balanced a small pine tree, to symbolize that nobody was injured during the construction.

Today's Salem News reports on this milestone in the $80 million project:

"This is so much better than putting the shovel in the ground in the beginning," said Tim Liporto, director of buildings and grounds. "Now, you see something."

School Committee member Karen Fogarty said when you have such a large project, it's important to acknowledge each small step as it takes place.

"It's a chunk that's now done," she said.

[Project Manager Al] Calcagno said work will now focus on the interior of the building. They'll finish the floors and walls and continue with the plumbing and electrical infrastructure. The building is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2010.