Boston Herald

Summer break won’t be delayed

Winter Hill Community Innovation School has missed 4 days

- By Lance Reynolds lreynolds@bostonhera­

Hundreds of Somerville students will be released for summer on time despite finishing their academic year in a new learning environmen­t after concrete crumbled inside their school, forcing it to close.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has given a waiver for the city district to excuse the four days that have been missed at the Winter Hill Community Innovation School after a “small section of concrete fell onto a stairwell inside of the school” last week.

That means the 422 students at Winter Hill, which teaches pre-kindergart­engrade 8, will be having their last day on June 16.

Wednesday will be the last day of the closure before students in grades 1-8 transition into classrooms at Tufts University’s Olin Hall in Medford on Thursday. Buildings within Somerville will host pre-k and kindergart­en students and specialize­d programmin­g.

“I am glad that the four days have been waived because it seems to me imposing that would be just punishing the students and staff that have nothing to do with this and have been trying to get the situation fixed,” parent Ryan Dunn said during a community forum Tuesday.

Families and educators have made their frustratio­n known since officials informed the community last Thursday that Winter Hill had to close for the remainder of the school year due to the crumbling concrete.

Dunn pressed officials during Tuesday’s meeting with officials over what kind of “compensati­on and restorativ­e practice” there may be for students who have lost learning time and for staffers who have faced the “additional burden”.

“If we could refrain from thanking us for our patience and understand­ing, that would be great because I’m experienci­ng neither patience nor understand­ing with this situation,” Dunn said.

In communicat­ions to the community, officials have not specified when the concrete crumbled last week. They did not immediatel­y respond to a Herald inquiry on the matter Tuesday.

Administra­tors, during the evening forum, said they sympathize and understand the frustratio­n that parents and staffers are feeling.

“We are doing everything we can to try to ease that transition and get students back as quickly as possible,” Interim Superinten­dent Jeff Curley said, “and talk to students and acknowledg­e that this is an extremely difficult and potentiall­y very traumatic closure for students.”

Infrastruc­ture issues have plagued Winter Hill over the years, and due to the school’s poor air quality, students had to move to Somerville High School during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne told parents Tuesday she informed the City Council on Monday the city won’t wait for the Massachuse­tts School Building Authority to approve funding to address Winter Hill’s dire state. The city submitted an applicatio­n in April.

Instead, Ballantyne said she’s requesting the council to approve the use of the city building stabilizat­ion fund to cover a feasibilit­y study that’d make the city eligible for potentiall­y millions in state aid for addressing Winter Hill.

The mayor said she “secured” nearly $1 million last year for master planning and assessment­s of Winter Hill and other facilities districtwi­de.

“I know the pace may feel slow to some,” Ballantyne said. “We have already stepped up and started the process. We are investing in moving forward, accelerati­ng where possible and being careful and thorough where needed.”

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