500 medical colleagues call on Gov. Baker & other state leaders to address the dire situation facing our healthcare workers due to COVID-19.
Dear Sustainable Wellesley community,
Dr. Regina LaRocque and more than 500 of her medical colleagues are calling on Governor Charlie Baker and other state leaders to address the dire situation facing our healthcare workers due to COVID-19.
As many of you know, Dr. LaRocque is a member of the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team, a Wellesley resident, and an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Sustainable Wellesley is opening all our lines of communication to support Dr. LaRocque and her colleagues and we urge you to join us in taking action.
Please read her message below and share it widely. Then, call (1) Governor Baker (2) your State Representative and State Senators to let them know how important this issue is to you. (Click Find My Legislator if you aren’t sure who to contact.)
1. Governor Baker: Please speak out forcefully and publicly as a Republican governor to counteract President Trump's dangerous narrative that we will be back to normal business by Easter.
2. Governor Baker: We need to ramp up military style local production of personal protective equipment. This needs to be coordinated centrally by the Governor’s office and executed by the National Guard. Right now, hospitals are doing all of this on an ad hoc basis. Governors have to take responsibility since the federal government is not. President Trump is not using the Defense Production Act. Massachusetts is forced to fight with other states and groups to access the national supply. We are already running short of critical personal protective equipment and supplies BEFORE the tidal wave has hit in Massachusetts. We do not have enough ventilators and respiratory clinics.
3. Governor Baker: Please add to your Command Center team a "Tony Fauci" point person with expertise in disaster management and infectious disease to communicate to the public about this epidemic.
4. Governor Baker: Please embed experts in infectious disease on the state’s Coronavirus Response Command Center. We need experts dedicated solely to this effort. There are many qualified people in Massachusetts who are willing to serve, including the names that have been forwarded to you. The current 'advisory panel' is made up of people who are already working 24/7 at their own institutions.
5. Governor Baker: Please keep pace with the governors in New York and Washington by giving clear and direct orders to stop all non-essential work, and give local governments the clarity and support they need to enforce your directives.
6. We need personal protective equipment to be delivered immediately to the MA medical community.
8. Culture media, COVID19 tests, vaccine and drug development needs to take priority in biotech. Widespread easily accessible testing needs to be available immediately.
You can reach Governor Baker here:
Main # (617) 725-4005
Toll Free (888) 870-7770
Springfield Office (413) 784-1200
TTY (617) 727-3666
There is a dire situation in our hospitals, putting our healthcare workers at risk, and consequently, all of us. Many thanks for making the calls and sharing this with your community!
Stay well and safe.
TONIGHT at 7 pm, Dr. Regina LaRocque will be on Facebook Live to answer your questions about COVID-19.
Regina is an infectious disease specialist at Mass General Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases -- and she’s also an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She earned her MD at Duke and has a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Regina and her family live here in Wellesley -- and we are really lucky to have her as a member of our Sustainable Wellesley leadership team!
Regina is on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19 -- but she is taking the time to answer your questions here on Facebook Live tonight at 7:00 pm, to help people understand what’s happening. So please send us your questions! You can send us a question via direct messaging on Facebook or emailing at email@example.com.
Thanks and see you at 7 pm!
A motion, especially interesting to Sustainable Wellesley readers, received unanimous favorable support from Advisory Committee members at their meeting last week.
This motion, an Opt-Out Voluntary Renewable Energy Program (based on the Power To Choose Program), will go before Town Meeting later this month. The premise is that an opt out program enrolls all Wellesley Municipal Light Plant customers into the program which will fund projects that will directly reduce our Town’s greenhouse gas emissions. Projects may include purchasing renewable energy, encouraging local solar power, adding electric town vehicles, providing charging stations, and other initiatives.
This program introduces an optional fee of about $7 per month for the average Wellesley household. For those who do not wish to, or can not afford to participate, opting out will be easy by phone, mail, or email. Opt out programs such as this are recommended by The U.S. Department of Energy, and exist in numerous Massachusetts towns including Newton, Lowell, and Concord. In addition, reducing energy usage would be ideal for our planet, and offset this fee.
As you may know, Wellesley did not meet Town Meeting’s goal to cut carbon emissions 25% by 2020. However, the results from The Opt-Out Voluntary Renewable Energy Program would enable the Town to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions going forward. This approach directly supports Wellesley's Unified Plan’s mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and complements the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant, Natural Resources Commission, and the Sustainable Energy Committee's initiatives.
Please consider voting for Town Meeting Members that will support such a motion on March 17th.
A Triple Bottom Line includes social and environmental returns, as well as financial returns for corporations and non-profits.
You are invited to learn more about the Triple Bottom Line from Michael Appell when new date for event is determined. The discussion will focus on ways to generate substantial financial resources while, remaining focused on social and environmental goals.
Appell, a lecturer and Assistant Director of the Heller MBA program at Brandeis, will help us better understand how and why a Triple Bottom Line approach may offer advantages to a wide range of stakeholders.
Sponsored by the Green Team at Temple Beth Elohim.
Scott Bender, Thomas F. Skelly, Jr.
The three-person, elected Board of Public Works oversees the Department of Public Works (DPW), which consists of the following programs: Engineering, Park, Highway, Recycling & Disposal, Management Services, Water, and Sewer and sits on the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant Board as well.
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
As a life-long Wellesley resident, I am committed to excellence in town-wide infrastructure, responsible resource utilization and fiscal responsibility. The path that led to the DPW started in 2002 when I toured solar homes and became excited to learn about renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation… I was hooked! I tried everything under (and including) the sun to maximize conservation and efficiency. In the process I learned what works and doesn’t work.
Enthusiastic about sharing this with the community, I invited other engaged residents and founded Sustainable Wellesley. That same year I was appointed by the Board of Selectmen (BoS) to the Town’s Green Ribbon Study Committee (GRSC) to establish an emissions baseline, reduction goal and Sustainable Energy Plan. At the conclusion of the GRSC I was again appointed by the BoS to the Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC). In both organizations, I spent more than 10 years engaged in community outreach including organizing a series of seminars, often sponsored by Wellesley’s Municipal Light Plant, featuring programs and incentives targeting residential energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy.
During my eight years on the SEC I had many opportunities to work with board members and employees of the Municipal Light Plant and Department of Public Works, including the Recycling and Disposal Facility (RDF), and forged relationships with past MLP Director Dick Joyce, as well as our new MLP Director, Don Newell.
I am an Engineer with decades of experience evaluating new technologies, designing and implementing solutions. As a Product Manager I have successfully managed multiple, multi-million dollar projects on time and within budget. My experience with strategic planning and product lifecycle management qualifies me to work with the DPW and MLP teams to further optimize processes in town infrastructure improvement and maintenance and resource utilization - including preparing to mitigate climate change in financially and environmentally compatible ways.
I have successfully leveraged Municipal programs to inspire individual action. Now, I am excited to work on the Board of Public Works to develop programs and policies for residential, commercial and municipal sectors. There is a huge financial and environmental win-win opportunity that will enable us all to save money, reduce waste and improve infrastructure. Together with the DPW and MLP staff we can make critical decisions that will improve the quality of life in our town for years to come.
Personally, our household has reduced its waste and water usage while living a normal Wellesley lifestyle. More significantly, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 80% while saving thousands of dollars annually on energy costs in our home. I aim to achieve comparable goals for the whole town.
If elected, I would work to mitigate climate change in financially and environmentally compatible ways and prioritize the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be a steward of the environment in all my decision-making.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr.-
I have been a Town Meeting Member for over 20 years and have voted to support all the sustainability issues presented to Town Meeting to date. I have 34 solar panels on my roof and drive a Tesla. I am a huge lover of the environment and will be on a 30-mile hike while you are having your candidate forum on March 8th. Sorry I will not be there.
2. Beyond current initiatives, how could the DPW expand its contribution to the Town’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste? What goals for greenhouse gas reduction and waste reduction would you support for DPW operations?
Scott Bender -
While the overarching priority is to maintain safe, high quality and efficiently maintained infrastructure, there are a variety of ways the DPW can do it's part. Some are occurring presently and some can be enhanced. For example:
With 250+ gas leaks in Wellesley, I intend to educate and encourage our community to move away from gas, as the infrastructure is deteriorating. In addition, by having the Wellesley DPW collaborate with other communities I hope to accelerate National Grid’s rate of gas leak repair and pipe replacement. This would contribute to greenhouse gas reduction, a Town goal.
I will continue to collaborate on initiatives to increase the financial benefit of the RDF, while reducing our community's waste stream. I will work to steer Wellesley towards reducing the amount of waste going to landfills by building on already successful initiatives like the food-waste diversion project, and seek ways to increase resident participation of the RDF while reducing the amount of trash generated by the community through education.
The DPW can prioritize identification of projects to support the town’s Complete Streets Policy approved in Spring 2019. Complete Streets promises to provide safe accessible options for walking, biking and transit vehicles to contribute to the safety, health and quality of life in our community.
In addition, I will support the DPW’s programs which protect our town’s water supply, and look for ways to work with other boards like the Natural Resources Commission to protect our wellhead areas, and further encourage our community to reduce pesticide use. I would also like to explore and implement the latest in natural stormwater infrastructure. For instance, the natural infrastructure techniques used throughout Fuller Brook Park may be applicable elsewhere in town. I’m excited about the town’s participation in the new Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which aligns with my goal of having the DPW and our whole town prepared to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr. -
I believe the BPW/MLP can be a leader in renewable energy for the town by building solar arrays over several town lots they manage and suggesting putting solar on town buildings. Producing our own power in town makes more sense than buying it from solar and wind farms far away from town. Local energy generation shows the town walks the walk when it comes to renewable energy. They can also be the primary driver behind allowing more people to sign up for 100% renewable electricity generation at the MLP.
As for the RDF we must introduce new people in town to our world renown recycling facility. Since we properly separate our waste we have a larger the return for the town when we sell our plastics, newspaper, cardboard, glass and cans. (do you realize the town receives 7 cents per aluminum can rather than five) Most new people to town simply hire a third party. We must reengage our citizens to recycle with and for the town again.
3. Since “the greenest kilowatt hour is the kilowatt hour not used,” what are your ideas for the MLP to increase energy conservation and efficiency town-wide?
Scott Bender -
In the municipal sector, our MLP has done great work to fund energy audits for municipal buildings and the recent LED streetlight conversion project realized significant long term savings. Our Facilities Management Department (FMD) does a tremendous job in tracking usage information and executing improvements prioritized from the energy audits. Since the municipal sector represents only a few percent of the town-wide emissions, I will work with the board and staff to design programs to facilitate conservation and efficiency in residential and commercial sectors. For the residents that have found challenges to implement recommendations from energy audits, I will work to implement common solutions and vendor guidance. I will also explore best practice for commercial programs, such as lighting retrofit programs, as implemented in other communities.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr. -
The MLP is one of the most innovative departments in town. The purchasing of electric power for the heating of over 600 apartment units in town is a huge win for conservation. Otherwise those units are heated with oil or gas. I believe using incentives to entice developers in this manner in the future will benefit the town. Every new building in town is closer and closer to LEED certification or Net Zero Energy. We are moving in the right direction. While the chair of Advisory I placed an environmental advocate onto the School Building Committee.
4. Aside from conservation and increasing efficiency, what are your ideas for actions the MLP can take to help reduce our Town’s greenhouse gas emissions?
I will prioritize meeting the town-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals and forge further ahead to getting more renewable energy powering Wellesley. I will continue to promote and incentivize electrification of our lives to transition Wellesley off of fossil fuels. Specifically, I will continue to advocate for smart meters, as well as time-of-use rates in combination with electrification of heating and transportation. These provide a unique win-win-win opportunity: electric vehicles and heat pumps generate more revenue for the MLP, save money for residents, and reduce emissions for the environment.
In recent months I have worked together with a group of residents on a Citizens petition to bring to Town Meeting an article and motion:
That the Town express its support for the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (WMLP) to enroll all Town electricity customers in the WMLP Voluntary Renewable Energy Program (VREP) by adding a VREP fee of 7% to the electric portion of the utility bill, with the understanding that any customer may opt out of the program, thereby avoiding the monthly VREP fee. Any VREP fee collected shall be used to fund voluntary renewable energy measure(s) to be selected by the WMLP for their impact on greenhouse gas emissions reduction that may include:
1. the purchase of renewable electricity for the customer’s home or business as is currently offered;
2. funding of local projects in Wellesley that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as the installation of community solar generation facilities, battery storage capacity, electric vehicle charging stations, or other similar programs.
The petition is the result of months of collaboration with town boards including the Sustainable Energy Committee, Municipal light Board, Advisory Committee, Board of Selectmen and Natural Resource Commission. I am already working with the Municipal Light Board members on the future of the VREP program and look forward to Town Meeting and town-wide engagement.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr.-
As mentioned above allowing more developers and homeowner’s to see the benefits of our towns low electric rates and how those rates would compare with heating their properties with oil and gas. I would push to have charging stations throughout town for electric vehicles. As the technology advances I would urge the town to purchase greener vehicles. As a town we must start to face the fact that transportation is causing us to miss our GHG targets. For example, starting a campaign to have or children be bused to schools rather than driven would cut down on emissions. For 20 years plus I have been hearing from parents about how they want walkable schools. There is a disconnect between what people are saying and what they are doing.
Join us this Friday at 10am at 11 Ingersoll Road for this month's Wellesley Green Schools meeting.
Learn about academic, and non academic, sustainability focused activities happening in Wellesley Public Schools. From Waste Diversion, to sustainability guidelines.
First timers welcome.
A blood drive will be held on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM in the Wellesley Community Center at 219 Washington Street. This event is co-hosted by
Wellesley Dental Group, the American Red Cross and Wellesley Community Center.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood— spring into action and give an hour of your time to save a life. The American Red Cross notes that even 1 donation can save up to 3 lives.
To register for the blood drive, you can call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or register online at RedCrossBlood.org using the sponsor code “WellesleyDental.”
Please bring picture identification, and remember to eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of fluids before donating. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Wellesley Dental Group by phone at 781-237-9071 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Red Cross is closely monitoring the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). They emphasize in their latest press release that there is no data or evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, worldwide. They continue to encourage healthy, eligible individuals to donate and ensure that it is a safe process to give and receive blood. To learn more about your donor eligibility and receive the latest updates from the American Red Cross, please visit their website RedCross.org
We are sorry to announce that we are canceling our candidate information event on Sunday. We wish to be cautious until more is understood about the incidence of covid-19 in Wellesley.
Instead of a live session, however, many of the candidates have thoughtfully answered questions about how they would further the cause of sustainability in their role.
We have been publishing their responses weekly in our newsletter, on our website and have shared them via social media. Please read what the candidates have to say, so that you can vote for sustainability on March 17.
Board of Selectmen
Natural Resources Commission
Board of Public Works - publishing Tuesday
We want to express our appreciation to the many volunteers who step up to serve in town government and to all those who are running!
Be sure to pick up an absentee ballot or make time on March 17 to vote.
Wishing you all a healthy, beautiful, sustainable weekend.
3 Candidates - 2 Spots Open
Lauren Duprey, Melissa Martin (Candidate for Re-Election), Catherine Mirick
The School Committee supports the core values, vision and mission of the Wellesley Public Schools, as well as the Committee’s responsibilities to:
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
Protecting our environment is so important and I have sought to incorporate sustainable practices into my family’s life – recycling, reducing consumption, limiting use of harmful chemicals and supporting organizations that share similar commitments. I am proud to work for a company which has committed to carbon neutrality by 2040. On a state and national level, I support candidates who are committed to preservation of natural resources as well as green practices.
Like most people, I constantly feel like I should do even more for this important cause. As a member of School Committee I would be committed to ensuring the Wellesley Schools do as much as possible to this end.
I am proud to have represented the Wellesley Public Schools along with Superintendent Dr. Lussier in accepting a Green Ribbon Schools award that recognized the district for its sustainable practices, such as energy conservation, food waste diversion, reduction in single-use plastic and green cleaning practices. Throughout my time serving on the Committee, it has become clear that this progress is made through partnerships with many stakeholders throughout Town. These numerous partnerships include the Facilities Management Department (FMD), Wellesley Green Schools, Wellesley’s 3R Working group, the Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC), Whitsons, Wellesley Police Department, student groups, faculty leaders, and many others. I fully support these continued partnerships at all levels. Innovative ideas on how to tackle sustainability issues emerge from many different sources.
On a personal level, I have worked to make some progress on sustainability, though I feel I still have a long way to go. I have recently embarked on two personal challenges: eliminating single-use plastic and reducing my overall consumption of new items. Simply trying to eliminate my consumption of single-use plastic for one week was an eye-opening experience. It was astonishingly challenging, and I found grocery shopping nearly paralyzing as so many items include plastic packaging. Yet, challenging myself to change my behavior in this area has had long-lasting effects, and I have continued to identify ways to limit and reduce the amount of single-use plastic consumed in my home and to focus on identifying reusable materials. With regard to my attempt to reduce my overall consumption of new items, I have been working to clear things out of my house that could better serve others and, more importantly, to not replace these items with more unneeded items. I continue to challenge myself by asking whether I really need new items that I bring into my home.
As a household, we absolutely love taking advantage of two opportunities that exist in the Wellesley community: 1) choosing to purchase a percentage of the power for your home from renewable resources and 2) dropping off food waste at the RDF to be converted into biofuel.
I grew up on a farm in Kansas, so the outdoors, growing things, and nature have always been a part of my life. I spent my college summers teaching Leave No Trace camping skills to Boy Scouts in New Mexico and trying to instill in them a love of the wild - and a sense of the greatness around them. Teaching children to love our world is the first step towards saving it.
This love of the outdoors and wilderness has grown over the years into a need to work towards preserving it in part by reducing our carbon footprint whenever possible. Buildings are one of the highest energy uses in town, so we’ve tried to minimize the energy we use in our home. When we built our house we used 6 inch studs in the exterior walls instead of the more common 4 inch studs; the additional insulation makes heating and cooling much more efficient. We were also in the first wave of Solarize Wellesley - the 41 panels on our roof have produced more electricity since their 2014 installation than we’ve used. We’ve always had a compost pile for yard waste and vegetable scraps and were glad to be one of the first participants in the RDF Food Waste program.
Transportation is another huge driver of energy use, so we try to minimize on that front as well. When we bought our house 20 years ago, Chris and I were both working in Boston and a major driver for us was being able to walk to the train. We happily realized that this location meant that we could also walk to the grocery store, CVS, the library and all of our kids schools. Jobs have changed since then, and Chris now drives to Waltham for work - we’re super excited that we just put down a deposit on an electric car to make that daily commute more efficient and better for the environment.
In our home we’ve also put into action many of the small changes that do make a difference, like LED light bulbs and motion sensing lights; trying to avoid plastic bottles and containers and re-using the ones that we do get; taking a reusable cup anytime we get tea at Starbucks; and always having reusable bags handy for shopping and storage uses. We’ve also tried to instill a sustainability culture as we’ve raised our kids. We walked to school - almost always. Our daughter Susanna did her senior project with Sustainable Wellesley and is now studying Environmental Science at Colorado College.
We’ve made sustainability a natural way of life - most recently that the Mirick for School Committee campaign signs beginning to sprout across town are biodegradable and their stands are re-usable!
2. In the past year, youth movements such as Fridays for Future, Climate Strike, Sunrise Movement have engaged many young people in Wellesley who are concerned about the impact the climate crisis will have on their future. How do you think the School Committee should engage with students on this issue and what could the School Committee and the School Administration do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage waste-reduction in our school buildings and throughout our school system?
It is inspiring to see the commitment and courage today’s youth are bringing to combating the climate crisis. I believe that the School Committee should engage enthusiastically with these young people – there is a lot we can learn from them and there is also a lot of support we can lend them to best channel their efforts.
We should seek to incorporate renewable energy sources wherever possible in our buildings. Notably, as future facilities projects unfold, pursuing Net Zero ready buildings is critical. In a spirit of continuous improvement, we should look at all of the school operations for opportunities to reduce waste and seek to engage and educate students about this. For example, I was thrilled to hear about the WMS composting project. I believe we can do even more!
I think that the best way for students to address these issues is the same way that we tackle many of the challenges that face the school system -- which is by working on solutions closest to the challenge and then discussing systemic changes at the School Committee and School Administration level. The schools and classrooms are the sources of many innovative and environmentally friendly activities such as composting and food diversion, the “green certification” of classrooms, the “no idling” campaign, and green locker cleanouts. I encourage students to continue to identify opportunities for improvement and to advocate for those activities.
There are a number of ways that students can engage with the School Committee on these topics. Students can always reach out to the Committee via email, but I will note that one of the highlights for the School Committee members is hearing directly from students on topics related to their education and/or their extra-curricular activities. We also have student representatives from the high school who provide updates on what is happening at the High School and through Student Congress. This is another great way to share progress and concerns about environmental issues.
One very significant step the School Committee is taking in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption is the plan to build Net-Zero-Energy (NZE) Ready elementary schools through the HHU project. The feasibility studies and design include strict sustainability criteria and the conceptual design for the Hunnewell Elementary school is an NZE ready elementary school. The Hardy/Upham school is being studied with the same goals in mind.
Wellesley Public Schools needs to continue engaging with students and working internally to combat our climate emergency.
Within the school buildings, I know that WPS has been working with the Facilities Management Department to use green cleaning practices, the MLP to reduce energy usage, and Whitsons Food Services to reduce waste. In 2019 they were named a Green Ribbon School District by the US Department of Education because of those efforts and other sustainability work. But there is more work to be done.
WPS could make a huge jump in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by getting new elementary schools built as soon as possible. The new Hunnewell school is being designed as a net-zero ready building, and I understand that the Library may be able to add enough solar panels when its roof is rebuilt to offset the electricity that Hunnewell will use, making Hunnewell effectively a net-zero building. The planning for the Hardy/Upham school is also incorporating sustainable design. Getting these two buildings built soon will take three very inefficient school buildings off-line and move the needle forward towards the Sustainable Energy Commission’s town-wide emission reduction goal.
In my work with PTOs over the years we’ve started and supported many green initiatives. While on the PTO board at Sprague in 2010 we invested in coffee mugs so that people coming to PTO meetings wouldn’t use and throw away single use cups. I helped create the budgets that supported the fledgling Green Team in their first “Seed Fest” in 2011 and helped fund the establishment of the Sprague Garden. As PTO President at Sprague, WMS & WHS we helped promote “Green” events, Power to Choose, No Idling campaign, Green Certifying Classrooms, etc. My co-president & I had representatives of Wellesley Green Schools come to PTSO meetings and talk about their current initiatives and ways to reduce waste at events - then we put it to use!
Students are excited to learn about sustainability and to help where they can. The composting pilot at the Middle School is going well and we need to continue expanding that. Last year the PTSO at the High School helped a student attend an activism training course and supported sending a teacher to do professional development at the Island School to build up the environmental science curriculum.
Lastly, it’s been suggested that WPS should think about adding a sustainability goal into its mission, vision statement or policies as some nearby towns are doing. I would love to work with Sustainable Wellesley to further explore this idea and see what works for our community.
3. The Town is currently struggling with serious traffic congestion, and having too many cars on the road results in air pollution and carbon emissions. Preliminary investigations have determined that school-related traffic is exacerbating this problem. How do you think the School Committee could be a part of the solution to this problem?
Traffic is a major issue for Wellesley and also more broadly for the state of Massachusetts. I believe the School Committee can help with this issue and I see two primary avenues: walkability and buses.
First, through enhancing and promoting walkability we can not only reduce traffic but also promote physical health and build social connectivity. Walkability should be a key criteria for the new elementary school district maps as well as which school site is selected in HHU. Walking and biking should be promoted and encouraged by ensuring safe sidewalks, ample crossing guards and creative incentive programs for students.
Next, for those who cannot walk, we should encourage use of buses. In speaking with many parents around town, there seem to be two main reasons for not using the buses: cost and convenience. The cost of the buses can leave parents with “sticker shock” and so anything we can do to reduce this would be beneficial. However, calculations exist which show that the cost might outweigh what parents spend on fuel and other expenses associated with driving. Sharing this even more would help. Convenience concerns are varied. I’ve heard from parents who have concerns over supervision while on the buses. Also, some of the drive times are longer than parents feel comfortable with. I think collecting, measuring and addressing these concerns would help drive more bus ridership.
There are a few approaches that could be taken: 1) Through behavior change communication; encourage alternative travel to and from school such as riding the bus, carpooling and walking, 2) Partner with the Town in exploring the reduction of bus fees and determining what the investment and the expected outcome would be; 3) Partner with the Town in identifying areas that could be improved for walking paths to and from schools and work to implement those improvements. As we move forward with the process of constructing new elementary schools, we face a fair amount of change, but, with change, also comes great opportunity, and I view this process as a wonderful opportunity for conceiving and implementing new habits surrounding travel to and from school.
Wellesley definitely has a traffic issue - we all see it every day. The obvious way that the schools can help is by getting students out of their parents’ cars and getting them to either walk, ride their bikes, or take the bus to school.
Walking is not an option for all families because of distance from the schools or other circumstances, but it is for many. While on the Sprague PTO Board I worked with our PE teacher to establish the “Walk to School” program and chaired the committee that ran it for several years. The more we can promote walking & biking, make it a fun contest or a group event, the more kids will be excited to do it and build habits for life. At one of the recent public forums a selectman spoke about how as part of the elementary school building process they are looking at improving sidewalks and intersections to develop safe routes to school so that more students can walk. I want to be part of that discussion and part of that solution.
The second way to get cars off the road is to get students onto buses. WPS now buses some kids, but a very small fraction. I had a wonderful conversation with a parent about the community at their bus stop - kids and parents building neighborhood bonds each morning as they waited for the bus. We need to understand why more parents aren’t putting their kids on buses - whether it is due to concerns about safety, rides being too long, too expensive, etc. Then with that information we can form a plan to move forward and increase the utilization of buses. But busing is a balancing act - the school department doesn’t have any unused funds, and spending on busing will mean less money available in other areas. I would like to explore the possibility of finding grant opportunities or other funding sources and work with groups across town to make this a reality.
4. Many local communities are now requiring environmental education in their curriculum, including time spent outdoors studying nature. Studies have shown a correlation between time spent outdoors and lower student anxiety and stress. Do you think environmental education should be expanded in Wellesley schools and if so, how would you go about advocating for such programs? What other ideas do you have for engaging students in environmental programming through the curriculum?
Absolutely! This is one of the most critical things we can teach our children. I would seek to partner with Wellesley Green Schools and Sustainable Wellesley to advocate for more programming and specific policies. I think the more local, the better. Curriculum focusing on the amazing environment right near us is something I would promote. One great example is when the elementary students study and examine the amazing rock ledge at Upham! With recent sighting of bald eagles and coyotes in town there is so much we can do right here to excite and engage our kids. I would especially advocate for more education on reducing waste. Study after study is showing that reducing consumption is by far the most impactful way to preserve the environment. Students should learn about what the most impactful actions they can take in their own consumer patterns. These habits form early and the schools are well poised to educate students as they start to make these important decisions.
I embrace the opportunities that exist for bringing classroom study out into the real world. Some of the elementary schools have incorporated “outdoor classrooms” and gardens as areas in which to learn while surrounded by nature. A highlight of the elementary school years is the geology field trip in which students visit geologically significant sites throughout Wellesley and learn about the creation of each of those sites. Directly linking the learning in the classroom to the neighborhoods in which the students live is quite powerful.
In recent years, many educators throughout the district have been trained in project-based learning (PBL) and Wellesley High School developed the Evolutions program, an optional self-contained project-based program. Through project-based learning, students study real-life challenges that are directly applicable to their world. Over the years, a number of these projects have focused on the environment such as analyzing erosion at Morses pond and developing solutions to limit it or developing model temporary housing that could be used during extreme weather events. The PBL approach not only is an effective way of educating students but it is also an impactful method for empowering students to identify changes that they can make to directly affect their world.
Our world is amazing - and the benefits are huge the more time we spend out in it. I was an outdoor educator during my college summers, and have put that knowledge to work in Wellesley as a leader for our Girl Scout troops and Venture crew. Enabling kids to explore the outdoors is a big part of my life.
While my kids were in elementary school, the environmental science curriculum was supported by parent-led nature walks in the Spring and Fall each year. I helped organize the volunteers for these walks and always was a leader myself. Kids learn to be scientists by exploring and asking questions and the outdoors is an incredible place to do that. Our new elementary schools will have outdoor classrooms, and all of our schools have open space around them. We need to work with teachers to build curriculum that uses these spaces.
WPS is working on incorporating more Project Based Learning into its curriculum, and I believe that is a great avenue for environmental science. Already one grade at Schofield has looked for solutions to erosion on their back path and Sprague 5th graders went to Morses Pond to study our water system. We need to work with the Natural Resource Commission’s educator to bring more of their programs into our schools. We are also fortunate that many surrounding towns are working on the same issues - we need to reach out, listen and learn from each other as we move forward.