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Gibbs tenants address school-enrollment surprise

The following statement addressing the possibility that the former Gibbs Junior High School may become school classrooms after 2017 was presented during public participation at the School Committee meeting of Thursday, Sept. 10:

My name is Ted Wilson. I am President of Schools for Children. 

We operate the Lesley Ellis School in the Gibbs School, Dearborn Academy in the old Crosby School and another short-term program in the Central School.

Tonight, in the interests of respecting your time, I was asked to represent Linda Shoemaker from the Arlington Center for the Arts, Marianne Racioppi and Nicole Lowery from Learn to Grow and Deanne Benson from our Lesley Ellis School.

We all have been operating important programs and services out of the Gibbs Junior High School since it was shuttered in 1989. That’s 26 years serving thousands of children, families and adults.

In the middle of August, we were each alerted that the Arlington School Committee is facing a very large enrollment challenge. We were shocked to learn that you are considering solving this problem in part by taking back the Gibbs school when our leases end in June 2017.

This was a huge surprise for all of us, because it was totally different than what we had heard as recently as when we signed our newest lease extensions in 2014.

We recognize that things can change and we readily acknowledge the pressure you are under in trying to figure out what to do with your new set of facts. We want to help you find the best possible solution for the children of Arlington, AND we want to let you know how important it is that the families, children and staff we serve be considered as you deliberate.

After almost 30 years, we ARE part of the fabric of this community ...

-- Learn to Grow serves almost 100 Arlington families helping to prepare their children scholastically for our Arlington schools,

-- Lesley Ellis School has a number of Arlington families enrolled,

-- Arlington Center for the Arts provides programming in all of the arts, runs camps for hundreds of Arlington children and families every year and touches thousands of lives annually.

-- The representatives from the Kelliher Center are not here tonight, but they provide day habilitation and employment services to almost 100 very fragile adults -- many of whom call Arlington home.

The possibility that we could lose the building we all call “home” is obviously very concerning.

For this reason, we would respectfully request that the School Committee put us on an agenda at the soonest possible date so we can share with you a) who we are and b) how we contribute to making Arlington so attractive to those young families you see moving into town.

We ARE part of the fabric of this town and believe the best solution to addressing the enrollment surge will be one which meets the needs of Arlington’s children AND which keeps the Gibbs community strong and vibrant. Thank you for the work you are doing, and thank you for considering our request.

This viewpoint was published Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

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