Save Lowell High

Voters Deserve to be Heard

Save Lowell High is a grassroots ballot initiative campaign intended to give all Lowell voters input into where Lowell High School should be located.

We believe that a decision as expensive and contentious as this deserves to be on the ballot. Let Lowell voters have a say!

Officers:

Chair: Michael Gallagher
Vice Chair: Molly Sheehy
Treasurer: Lianna Kushi
Secretary: Onotse Omoyeni

Media Inquiries:

Email [email protected] with any questions.

The Facts about Downtown and Cawley

Save Lowell High got organized because we believe that given the choice, Lowell’s voters would weigh the evidence and choose to build the new high school downtown. Lowell’s School Building Committee, and more recently the City Council, have spent years working with outside experts and city staff to create numerous reports detailing the expected timelines and costs of the different options for a new Lowell High School. We took out the most relevant information from those reports, to lay out the facts on the costs and impact on students of the different options. These reports are all available on the School Building Committee’s website.

COST
This is the cost for the Cawley and Downtown options that was given to the City Council in June. The options that are being debated now are Option #3 for the downtown location, and either the the 4 story or 5 story Cawley options.

That table is not a complete picture of the costs to build a new high school. Option #3 and Cawley both have additional costs.

Cawley has significant additional costs according to a report released October 18th by Lowell’s CFO Conor Baldwin:

1. $1.97 million (park improvements)

2. $1.2 million (traffic signalization)

3. $500,000 (roadway improvements for traffic)

4. $1,054,500 (sidewalk improvements)

5. $5 million (sewer improvements)

6. $1.3 million (water improvements)

SUBTOTAL: $11,024,500

In addition to these capital costs, Baldwin wrote in his report “busing is projected to cost anywhere from $0 to $3.2 million, annually. The numbers at this time cannot be refined down to a more definitive cost until certain decisions are made in regards to potential new bell schedules and bus routes, city-wide.”

Option #3 also has an additional cost: it requires using eminent domain for the dentists’ office at 75 Arcand Dr, which the city estimates will cost $2 million. The infrastructure is already in place to support a high school at the location, according to a report written by the city’s transportation engineer:

As previously mentioned the Downtown LHS site has no negative impacts on traffic due to the existing transportation infrastructure and services. The City has already invested over a million dollars upgrading traffic signals in the downtown area. Recently, video detection and advanced controllers were installed at the Merrimack Street/Dutton Street intersection. Also, design has commenced on a full replacement of the traffic signals at French Street and Bridge Street intersection. In addition to traffic improvements, the City has also invested in sidewalk and bike lane infrastructure around downtown. Other services available include parking garages near the high school and LRTA busing service.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

The Lowell Sun had a great run-down of hazardous materials at the two sites:

Soil tests at the current high school site and Cawley Stadium came back positive for heavy metals and other contaminants, according to Stephen Vetere, of Nobis Engineering. The results are not unusual for urban sites, he said. The contamination will mean increased costs for remediation but should not substantially affect construction at either location.

Hazardous material testing inside the current high school, performed by Universal Environmental Consultants, showed the presence of asbestos, mercury, and other materials, but nothing that presented a serious impediment to renovating the school. A representative of the company estimated that, in a worst-case scenario, it would cost $4.2 million to abate the materials.

You can read the complete report from Universal Environmental Consultants in the Preferred Schematic Design Submission.

IMPACT ON STUDENTS

The current high school location allows over 1/3 of Lowell High students to walk to class. Official estimates indicate that just 7-10% of students would be able to walk to the Cawley Stadium site – approximately 245 to 350 students. According to the city’s report:

The neighborhoods located around the downtown have high concentrations of low income, minority, and low-English proficiency populations residing in the Acre, Lower Belvidere, Centralville, Lower Highlands, Back Central and Downtown neighborhoods. Over 17% of households in the City of Lowell do not have access to a vehicle, and depend on biking, walking and transit for transportation . . . Regardless of age, language, ethnicity, income or ability residents from these neighborhoods have equitable access to everything the city of Lowell has to offer because they can easily walk, bike, or ride a bus to the downtown core. These efforts are evident by the existing mode share of the downtown high school . . . two third[s] (63%) of high school students walk or ride LRTA home from the high school.

Do you still have questions after reading this? Send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll work on getting an answer up on this page.

Save Lowell High submits 10,104 Signatures on Deadline

Today was the deadline to turn in signatures to put where to build Lowell’s new, state-of-the-art high school on the November 7th ballot. We needed 6,523 signatures or 10% of all the registered voters in Lowell, and we massively exceeded that goal, turning in 10,104 signatures altogether.

Collecting more than 10,000 signatures was only possible because of the dedication dozens of Lowellians showed standing out at grocery stores, knocking on doors, and collecting signatures from friends, family and neighbors. Now that the high school is on the ballot, we need a YES vote in November, and that means keeping up our momentum and our energy for the next 43 Days!

Save Lowell High is (almost) on the Ballot!

Last evening we got the word from the Election Commission: We have the 6,523 certified signatures we need to make the ballot!

This is great news, and a testament to all the hard work our volunteers have put in these past nine weeks. In the heat and in the rain, at the Folk Festival, grocery stores, and on the doors, we’ve been out gathering signatures. Now the voters of Lowell will be able to have their voices heard!

We’re not done, though. We still have until Monday to turn in our signatures, so if you have a sheet, we need it! We’re also going out this weekend to gather more signatures and talk to voters about why renovating Lowell High and keeping it downtown is so important. JOIN US!

80% of Signatures Certfied for LHS Ballot Question

The Lowell Sun reported this morning:

With less than two weeks before the deadline, more than 80 percent of the required signatures have been certified by the city. The group has been collecting signatures to put a non-binding question about the future of Lowell High School on the November ballot.

That is 5,301 signatures that have now been certified, so we’re just over a thousand signatures short of the 6,523 we need to put this question on the ballot.

We need to exceed the required number of signatures, and that means having supporters come out and volunteer. Knocking on doors this weekend, and next weekend is the best way to collect signatures. Sign up to talk to people about why Lowell needs to build its new, state-of-the-art high school downtown, where all of our students can easily get to school, and access all of our city’s many resources.

MICHAEL GALLAGHER: High school ballot initiative is in city’s best interest

The Lowell Sun ran Michael’s response to their August 15 Editorial in today’s edition.

Over the last few weeks, literally scores of volunteers – Lowell High School students, parents, educators, retirees, and others from every neighborhood in the city – have gathered over 6,000 signatures so that Lowell citizens can vote in November on the most important issue confronting them in a generation:  whether the city’s sole public high school should remain, and be renovated and re-built, in its historic downtown location.  While The Sun has in the past complained about voter apathy and sought to encourage civic involvement, it has now twice editorialized against this signature drive, contending that it is “spreading a false impression that Lowell residents are deeply divided” and, disturbingly, that this grass roots effort is “treading on dangerous ground” which “amounts to treason against the people.”

“False” impression that we are “deeply divided”?  Taking out duplicate votes, the tally of City Council, School Committee, and School Building Committee votes on this issue to date is 14 to 14.  Our elected and appointed officials could not be more deeply divided.

Treason?  Really?  These volunteers, who have donated their time to knock on doors and stand outside grocery stores, have engaged in the most un-treasonous action we as American citizens can take when we disagree with our government – collecting signatures on a petition.  And, notably, when the necessary 6,500 signatures are certified, they will have collected more signatures than any City Councilor got votes in the 2011, 2013, or 2015 elections.

These volunteers have done so as they firmly believe that this decision is one that will affect generations to come and that it is in the best interests of Lowell’s students and citizens that the high school remain in the downtown.  

They strongly feel, like multiple Lowell School Superintendents and High School Headmasters, that the downtown site is much preferable because it is centrally-located and the most equitable location for all students, allowing many to walk to school and to access the numerous programs, internships, and services offered downtown through UMass Lowell, MCC, the MRT, museums and galleries, the LCHC, UTEC, CTI, Lowell Makes, etc. which distinguish LHS from suburban high schools (and which have helped to dramatically reduce dropout rates); because the downtown site is the most cost-effective for Lowell’s taxpayers, avoiding the unreimbursable roadway improvement expenses at Cawley and saving millions every year in bussing costs; because the downtown site keeps a vital piece of the downtown economy in place; and because of the disproportionate impact on one city neighborhood of about 4000 students and staff, 900 vehicles, and 50 buses passing through and into it every school day.

In one of The Sun’s intemperate editorials, the author quoted Abraham Lincoln.  When Lincoln was upset about an issue, though, he would write what he called a “hot letter” which he would put aside until his emotions calmed down and then he would note “never sent, never signed” (after his assassination, they found such notes in his bottom desk drawer).  Maybe the writer of the editorial should have followed President Lincoln’s example.

And maybe the newspaper can now take a different tack.  Fueled by its editorials, this critical debate at times has become too personal.  It is now clear that the necessary number of signatures will be timely gathered and that this issue will be on the ballot.  Rather than demeaning this effort, maybe the newspaper could fulfill its community-focused mission, as it has in the past, and work with all sides to uncover all the facts – as to cost, traffic, equity, economic and neighborhood impact, etc. – and broker a city-wide conversation so that we all can fairly and honestly debate the issue and make a truly informed choice in November.

Michael Gallagher is a local attorney and chairman of the Save Lowell High Committee.

You can read this op-ed on the Lowell Sun.