The Hardy School's Outdoor Space Needs
Dear Dr. Bodie and members of the School Committee:
During the past year, the Hardy School parent community has watched with great interest as the six-classroom addition process moves toward fall 2017 construction. We appreciate all the work that members of the School Department and other town leaders have done to ensure that Hardy receives this important addition. However, one issue that concerned us as we followed the planning was that the school’s outdoor space did not appear to be receiving attention as a design and strategic priority—either during the construction or afterward. This issue is of paramount importance to our community, and it is directly connected to the enrollment challenges that necessitated the addition in the first place.
We have been pleased to note a recent uptick in administrative attention to the playground issues in Facilities Subcommittee meetings and through email communications. As the school year ends, we have come together to voice our support for a holistic, thoughtful approach to the future of our outdoor space—and to share our hopes for the eventual outcome of this important conversation.
1) During construction, when the small playground structure has been removed from the Chandler Street side of the school, we need a clear plan to enable all of our students to have the recess experience they need. We appreciate that this is currently under consideration and will be part of the design process.
2) We need short- and long-term solutions for the Lake Street side that will offer students a sustainable surface (like wood chips or other fiber material) and engaging materials (a small structure and loose-parts play equipment are options to be considered) to encourage the kind of collaborative, imaginative free play our children need at recess. We are pleased that the administration is looking into interim solutions for next year and has worked to have funds allocated to place a play structure on the Lake Street side during the summer of 2018.
3) Creative, forward-thinking ideas for the future of the Chandler Street play area should be considered as part of this construction project. With Hardy’s enrollment growing so quickly, it is not appropriate to expect our students and teachers to wait until a multi-year, town-wide study is complete to make changes, which we understand is the current plan. We know that the playground space we have now is inadequate for this year’s population of approximately 450 students. Projections indicate that Hardy will have about 40 additional students within three years. Simply replacing the already-crowded play structure that will be lost to construction with a new one on the Lake Street side will not sufficiently increase playground capacity, and it will do nothing to make the Chandler Street side a vibrant space with multiple play opportunities. Playground capacity and usability at Hardy have become an issue of parity.
With this in mind, we urge you to consider how the large blacktop area could be be reconfigured to keep a basketball court and space for other games but also offer space for other types of play. With thoughtful planning, there is room for an additional play structure if some blacktop is removed. It is logical to plan to do this while heavy equipment is already on site. Further, the partial fence that runs parallel to the main Chandler Street fence could be removed to increase usable space. We request that multiple options be explored to make the most of the space we have, both during and after construction. As a parent community, we view the upcoming expansion as the appropriate time—for financial and programmatic reasons—to make needed improvements to the function of the whole school, which includes classrooms, common space, and outdoor space.
As we work toward meeting our enrollment challenges, we see the current moment as a chance to look holistically at the way our outdoor space contributes to our children’s social learning and overall educational experience. We applaud your call for creating a Hardy Building Committee, and we look forward to participating in the conversation on this issue in the weeks and months to come. This petition is meant to communicate our hopes for the decisions that may be made in the interim regarding Hardy School’s outdoor space.
The Hardy Parent Community