Reminder Publishing sent all six candidates for Westfield School Committee identical questionnaires covering several topics of interest to voters. Answers are in the candidates’ own words and have not been edited, except for spelling and punctuation. Responses are listed in the order that candidates will be listed in the ballot: incumbents first, then challengers, in alphabetical order.
Today’s question: Apart from the Franklin Street School project, what are the biggest infrastructure needs facing Westfield schools, and how would you address them?
Timothy O’Connor: We must develop a way to move the Fort Meadow program into a better, safer and more updated learning environment. The extent we can move the program into another building, or move the program into different school building’s capacity, is TBD. We will also need to address the aging WHS and WTA educational facilities, including the WHS pool and athletic fields across both sites. HVAC improvements at WIS and WMS are currently underway.
Heather Sullivan: First, we need a facility with state-of-the-art equipment to support the needs of our Fort Meadow students and staff. I would also like to target outdated classrooms at WTA and WHS to bring them up to date.
Martha Breton: Currently, I do not see a need for any new brick-and-mortar infrastructure for Westfield schools. However, down the road I would support Bo Sullivan’s suggestion of combining WHS and WTA under one roof. Being a fiscal conservative mom, I would advocate that our college prep students do an “exploratory semester” studying a trade, and vice-versa.
Jeffrey Gosselin: One of the biggest infrastructure problems facing our community is the need to either replace or renovate the high school. Westfield High School is in rough shape and needs many new upgrades. The parking lot needs improvement, the library needs some work, the fields need help. When my mother, Sharon Merlo-Gosselin, served on School Committee, the high school building renovations were discussed, in 2005, and this is not new, but a long proposal. I would support continued work towards renovations.
Kathleen Hillman: After the Franklin Avenue School is completed, we should turn our eyes toward building a Westfield Comprehensive High School. The Westfield Technical Academy was built is 1911, while the high school was built in 1973. Both facilities are outdated. Our students deserve a state-of-the-art building with good quality air, including air conditioning and current science equipment/labs and modern up-to-date technologies.
Tom Lewis: The list of infrastructure needs within the schools seems endless. Most of our elementary schools are very old and need updating (depending on closures due to the Franklin Avenue project). WHS is 50 years old and in serious need of updating or replacement, and should top the list. All the athletic fields need serious updating. Outside of bonding these projects, the School Department should leverage the many businesses and wealthier residents in a capital campaign.
The final question and answers with the School Committee candidates will appear tomorrow. For previous questions and answers, visit thewestfieldnews.com/tag/election-2021.