LHP Supports Downtown High School
May 17, 2017
Lowell Heritage Partnership Supports Downtown High School Location
The Board of Directors of the Lowell Heritage Partnership (LHP) voted unanimously (two abstentions) on March 23, 2017, to renew and keep Lowell High School downtown, citing it as “an opportunity to ensure that our heritage is preserved as a defining part of the learning experience of Lowell youth.”
The LHP believes the community’s public interest is best met by a downtown high school designed and equipped for the 21st-century that extends its educational legacy, respects distinctive natural and built environments, and values our culture. Further, the access to other important support resources such as Pollard Memorial Library, UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, Boys and Girls Club, Girl’s Inc., UTEC, and the like is an advantage that cannot be replicated in a suburban-type location.
“In discussing this issue, we considered our role, most recently in promoting the vitality of the historic downtown,” said Paul Marion, LHP President. “Two of Lowell’s greatest proponents and visionaries were mentioned in the board’s discussion, the late Dr. Patrick Mogan and U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas.”
The LHP statement continued as follows:
Senator Tsongas, a Lowell High alumnus, fought tirelessly for a national park that would create a better future based on unique historical and cultural assets. These assets are concentrated in downtown Lowell, which we believe can be enhanced further by a renewed Lowell High School. Senator Tsongas saw Lowell’s potential to become “the best middle-sized city in America,” which must include the betterment of all populations and communities.
As Superintendent of Schools and chief strategist for the urban park concept, Dr. Mogan imagined Lowell as a lifelong learning laboratory with place-based, experiential educational methods. Recollections of those who worked with him show Dr. Mogan as an advocate for a robust Lowell High School in the heart of the city.
“Of the challenges facing Lowell in the 1960s and early ‘70s, Dr. Mogan wrote: “There appeared to be a complete disassociation between the present and the past. This was very serious, for scholars had been saying for a long time that people need ‘roots’ and a positive sense of being as prime ingredients for development.” Students at the time lagged in educational achievement. He and other teachers believed the lack of a positive sense of self was a barrier to student success.
Taking the high school out of a stimulating social and cultural location can only provoke the kind of “disassociation” or alienation that Dr. Mogan described. Generic surroundings do not reinforce identity.
The LHP’s recent investment in the Waterways Vitality action plan motivates the board to advocate for a renewed downtown Lowell High School. With partners in City Hall, the national park, and private and nonprofit sectors, momentum is building to enhance our waterways with lights and events. Given this effort, the LHP cannot support moving a major public institution from the area near Lucy Larcom Park and the Merrimack Canal, where students can enjoy a unique and rich urban environment. Today, walkable cities rich with activities are embraced nationally as responsible, sustainable, and economically robust.
The idea that we cannot successfully renew this property is contrary to Lowell’s nationally recognized track record of success. In the past 40 years, we have converted five million square feet of mills and commercial properties to productive work spaces, appealing residences, and cultural attractions. In each case, safety and environmental issues were resolved. The quality of this work has been recognized by national awards and by numerous visitors from places striving for similar success.
In its distinctive place and with outstanding leadership and teaching professionals and wonderful young people, Lowell High has launched generations of students into successful orbits. Its alumni Hall of Fame rivals any high school’s story. Lowell High is a world-class contributor to our community and the country.
We believe that the high school debate is a turning point for Lowell and its future. Much as our community regrets the 1960s demolition of the Dutton Street boarding houses as short-sighted and poorly planned urban renewal policy, we urge the community not to diminish and abandon by neglect an important part of Lowell, its downtown high school.
Paul Marion, President, Lowell Heritage Partnership
P.O. Box 8744, Lowell, MA 01853
6 Responses to LHP Supports Downtown High School
I respectfully disagree. Parts of our city do not make for a unified city as a huge parcel of land occupied by current LHS sits vacant during peek economical times such as, nights, weekends, and beautiful summers. With the hopes that residents and businesses would fill out the unoccupied downtown LHS buildings and space then would flow into money into other business downtown helping connect downtown right to the river walk, arena, and baceballfeild. Unifying all the new residents in all the mills on the river. It can go on and on. Also failed to mention the deplorable conditions the current school is in, the huge amounts of money wasted in previous renovations, and that students will be forced to be educated in 7 years of renovation/demolition and construction. I suffered through that 18 years ago. I feel I am educated enough to say that is never going to be a safe option for any student or staff.
Is city hall open nights and weekends? Should we sell city hall to make a buck? Of course not. It and LHS are civic assets that increase social capital in Lowell by having them centrally located.
The economic stagnation of downtown has more to do with macro forces like Amazon and micro forces like mismanaged parking policy and zoning that favors auto-oriented development and cuts off the neighborhoods from downtown.
The constant yearning for the mega-project to save downtown hasn’t happened and will never be as effective as bottom-up incremental improvements to downtown.
I totally agree with the LHP, the High School should be centrally located. I think it’s important to be able to utilize the current city bus service. The idea of bussing every student to the far corner of Lowell does not make any sense to me. I, my son, and my father before me are all graduates of LHS. We all appreciated the ease and convenience of getting to school, enjoyed the beauty of Lucy Larcome Park, and socialized at the local establishments after school. I currently work in a renovated mill building near downtown, and the office space is beautiful – nicer than any new building I ever worked in. Please keep our city’s history alive and keep LHS downtown.
If I wanted my kids to go to a suburban high school, I would have moved to Tewksbury or some place. I want my kids, including the one who will be there during the construction phase, to go to an urban high school.
The decision is for me what site can offer the best spot for a high school.
I just think the Cawley site offers a larger area to build new and incredible state of the art school. Let’s get to a place where folks want to come to Lowell for its high school.
The other thing I’ve always wondered is where do the kids go now for sports? Is there a field used near downtown or do they have to bus to some other field?
When I was in school, sports really saved me. I remember walking to practice at the baseball field after school. Can the LHS kids do that now?
“Let’s get to a place where folks want to come to Lowell for its high school. ”
People don’t move to a city to send their kids to a suburban style school?