In this issue:
School in a Pandemic
Road Changes around Schools
What’s this Picture About?
Learn more about this picture at the end!
As I write this, ballots are still being counted. Things are still unsettled.
But in the sleepless hours of last night, I realized something--whatever the outcome.
Those of us who believe the United States should stand for “liberty and justice for ALL” have a lot of work ahead of us.
A lot of that work will be at the local level. Economic insecurity, inequality, climate action--all need localities like Newton, states like Massachusetts, to step up and do our best to build back better.
We are blessed in Newton with organizing dynamos who put together times and places for us to dine (Feast of the Falls), ride (Tour de Newton), run (Heartbreak Hill race) and see each other as a community. If we stay behind our screens and fire salvos at each other’s’ imperfect political positions, we lose the ability to work together across differences.
So let’s walk. Talk on the phone. Find each other outside of our political “teams,” and build the bridges that make for better policies and politics.
October’s Monday Holiday
We are blessed in Newton with several vibrant communities who persevered and remained in Newton despite facing down redlining and discrimination. So while I supported removing Columbus’ name from the Monday holiday name on official Newton calendars, I also supported a more nuanced approach to it.
We need to understand our history but also include all our communities in determining how we as a community can honor Italian-American pride as well as to recognize and educate around the damage unleashed by Columbus and his “discovery.”
School in a Pandemic
Parents, teachers and students are all struggling within our schools’ hybrid model for elementary students and distance learning for all the rest (which soon becomes hybrid for middle schools).
The issues of equity (some students cannot return to in-person learning, but some families can pay for additional enrichment or private schools), social and emotional needs (of students and teachers) and just how much education can happen in the hybrid vs. distance learning models are all being vigorously discussed on social media and in Zoom meetings.
Council has been asking questions of our School Committee colleagues, but ultimately, outside of budget and wider public well-being decisions, school policy rightly belongs in the School Committee’s hands, not ours.
Here’s my take:
So to the extent in-person education happens (and because infections in schools will translate to infections in the wider community, this is important for all of us), Newton needs to ensure:
I expect we will continue to hear a variety of voices around the issue of in-person vs. distance learning models, and I will continue to listen and learn.
Changes around Schools
COVID safety protocols have limited school bus seating capacity, and we also know that our schools, even at half enrollment, cannot handle many more vehicles at arrival and dismissal.
The school transportation working group--on which Councilor Alicia Bowman and I sit and the Complete Streets Working Group—have accelerated changes to streets around schools to improve safety at arrival and dismissal. These include traffic calming on Lowell Avenue near Newton North to create an additional drop off zone and protect students’ crossing, a contra-flow bike lane near Newton South, and more.
The nimble and creative response to make streets around schools safer is a model of what city and school staff can do. Kudos go to Mayor Fuller, Superintendent Fleischman, LIam Hurley, the entire Transportation Division, and many more
Admit it--you were curious about the photo at the top! That’s our neighbor Vince McKay helping to mark the newest official pedestrian off-road trail atop the southern section of the Sudbury Aqueduct. I confirmed this week that both the MWRA and the City have signed the official permit.
Now I am looking for volunteers in the neighborhood to help construct some sturdy erosion-controlling box stairs at the Stanley-Canterbury crossing. Send me an email if you’d like to help!!
I’m not holding office hours, but am always willing to listen--email to set up a time to talk.
Stay healthy, stay warm, mask up!
Almost every month I write constituents about a topic before the city