Today I received an email from Greta Wilensky, a 2016 graduate of Lowell High, who I’ve met through her involvement in the FreeVerse! Poetry group. Greta has been active in the Lowell High site selection debate and asked if I would publish on this site something she had written on the issue.
This past week, I posted a joint statement from Congresswomen Niki Tsongas, UMass President Marty Meehan, and State Senator Eileen Donoghue. I have also posted a statement from Councilor Bill Samaras. Earlier tonight, I posted a statement released earlier by Councilor Dan Rourke. So I decided to post Greta’s statement, too.
I have also posted my own position on this issue, which is in favor of Downtown Option 3. But there are two sides to this issue, so I’m willing to post statements from people who support either site. If you’d like to share your written statement, just email it to DickHoweJr[at]gmail.com, and I’ll post it.
In the past, I have invited readers to become contributors by sharing reports, observations and thoughts of daily life in Lowell. Through the years, we have had more than 40 unique contributors. Perhaps this is a good time to renew that invitation and ask that anyone so inclined, send me stories about Lowell that you would like to share with our readers, whether it involves the Lowell High debate or anything else.
Here is Greta’s statement:
Statement on Lowell High Site Selection
By Greta Wilensky
My name is Greta Wilensky, and I am a recent LHS graduate. As you may already know, I’m passionately fighting to keep Lowell High downtown. Though I understand you’re under pressure from both sides, I would not feel okay with myself if I did not make one last, public attempt to explain why I think LHS should remain downtown.
When I was a student there only last year, the downtown location allowed me to fully utilize and appreciate all Lowell has to offer. A downtown LHS allowed me, a Highlands resident, to get to school via the LRTA in a reasonable amount of time due to its central location. For the 2,000+ students who walk or take the LRTA to school, keeping LHS downtown would ensure continued and uncompromised access to education.
Moving LHS all the way to Cawley would make accessing school far more difficult for all of these students. Providing necessary bussing would cost the city $3.2 million a year. If taxpayers refuse to fund this, this $3.2 would cut into Lowell public schools’ funds for education–money needed for books and teachers. Money we can’t afford to lose. As a student of Lowell public schools for 13 years, I know firsthand that those things are far more important than anything else.
Furthermore, the cost of necessary traffic renovations at the Cawley site would be over 9 times more than traffic renovations needed if the downtown location remains. Additionally, Belvidere likely cannot sustain the traffic a high school as populated as Lowell High would bring. Traffic on Andover street is bad enough already, and a high school in the middle of everything would make it unimaginable. Belvidere residents know this. Drive by the houses adjacent to Cawley stadium on Douglas Road and you will see more LHS for downtown yard signs than anywhere else in the city.
Keeping LHS downtown makes downtown Lowell an axis of both business AND education. It makes Lowell youth like myself proud of their historic city. I ask you today to consider the impact of your decision. Much of the discussion in this debate has been focused on things other than what’s best for students–primarily profit. Putting the potential for increased revenue above the needs of students in deciding where to locate a new high school is morally wrong. It’s not what Lowell is about.
As myself, many of my peers, and your fellow Councilor William Samaris have all eloquently and passionately expressed, a downtown location is what’s best for Lowell youth.
This debate is deeply personal to me. It’s more than just politics. In high school, I rode the LRTA to school, worked in downtown, and got involved in a downtown-based after school program called FreeVerse!
FreeVerse! is a nonprofit writing group for Lowell youth. They taught me to foster my creativity and writing. They taught me to speak up for what I believe in–as I’ve been doing at recent city council meetings. This fall I will be attending Pratt Institute in NYC to study writing. I’m a published, award-winning writer. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for FreeVerse!–and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be involved with FreeVerse! if LHS hadn’t been in downtown when I attended. My success and future career are a product of a downtown LHS. I wouldn’t be where or who I am today without the opportunities that Lowell High’s downtown location provided me. When I say these things, I’m thinking of future students like me.
Please, please prioritize the future of Lowell’s youth when you vote on this issue. The grant allowing us to improve LHS was given to Lowell in order to make education better for its students. Thus, I ask that when making your final decision, you remember who this is really about–not politics, not profit, but the bettering of students’ lives and educations. Thank you.
Lowell High School Class of 2016