(LOW) In the past, discussions about the fate of the old Ashaway school were mostly concerned with its historic and sentimental value, the possibility that it could be renovated and reused, and the cost of maintaining and protecting it. Those concerns have been superseded by justifiable and growing fears about school security in the wake of mass shootings. Who is to say it couldn’t happen here? Parents and teachers at the new Ashaway Elementary School, which is close to the old building, have brought the safety issue to the forefront, and a consensus in favor of demolishing the 1904 structure may be building in the community. The problem is not only the structure’s condition, and the possibility that an armed intruder could get in, but its placement.
“There’s a huge blind spot because of that building, so honestly, we don’t even know what’s coming towards us sometimes,” said one of the teachers, Clare Ornburn. “We can’t see if there are strangers, and there have been so many times that we’ve been outside … and all of a sudden, someone’s walking around the corner that shouldn’t be on the campus.” Teachers and PTO members met with the Town Council president last month, and at the time, the impetus was the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida. The latest double-digit toll was recorded Friday in Texas, prompting the state’s lieutenant governor to suggest that schools are too easy targets. As the AP reported, the NRA is pushing for a “hardening” of schools, and keeping shrubbery and landscaping farther away from the buildings so there are fewer blocked viewpoints.
(LOW) The Hopkinton Town Council is expected to discuss the issue Monday night. One of the points might be the cost of demolition and the possibility that the Chariho school district could chip in. It could cost about $130,000. That should not be an insurmountable obstacle, given the reality of gun violence and the special vulnerability of students to these kinds of attacks.
The Rev. Jan Vickery Knost, a retired minister who is called upon for invocations at the swearing-in of Charlestown Town Council members, was appointed last week as one of three members of the town Charter Review Advisory Committee. Knost has served on the Steering Committee of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, the group that, in his words, acted upon the vision that a town could be “governed in peace and tranquility if the candidates for office were similarly inclined.” CCA, he noted in a letter before the 2014 election, was formed in reaction to previous councils, which were noted for their angry behavior. Soft-spokenness, in other words, would be a cardinal virtue, as would the group’s espousal — as stated that year by one of its adherents, John J. Goodman, that the group would put people over politics and would “listen to the diverse views of all in the town.”
Well, things have changed — at least in the area of public relations — and the current all-CCA council makes no pretense of its disdain for “diverse views.” Vanquished political opponents who have tried to get their foot back in the door have been blocked. It happened with the recent charter appointees, who were recommended by Councilor George Tremblay. He was named to the council to fill a vacancy in February. In a letter to The Sun, Tremblay defended his decision on the charter matter by noting that the Founding Fathers never intended the U.S. to be an “unfettered democracy.” Let’s give him credit for being honest when he said he picked the three (he could have picked seven) on the basis of personal acquaintance, and again for noting in his letter that it would have been “stupid” to choose someone whose values didn’t align with the council’s. His colleagues would not be so vocal; they certainly weren’t when they cut the size of the Parks and Recreation Commission last year in an unexplained purge.
But if the traditional parties object to this sort of governance, they need to get organized and find candidates who can get elected in Charlestown. It’s that simple.