Opinion: Why I support Rebuilding at Rundlett

Citizens aligned with the initiative Rebuild at Rundlett are urging the Concord School District to rebuild the middle school on its current South Street site.

Citizens aligned with the initiative Rebuild at Rundlett are urging the Concord School District to rebuild the middle school on its current South Street site. File photo


Published: 11-28-2023 6:00 AM

Reagan Bissonnette lives in Concord.

The Concord School Board has an important decision to make on December 6. Rundlett Middle School is in dire need of replacement, and the school board will vote on the location for the new middle school. The choices are to rebuild at the existing Rundlett Middle School location or build at the Broken Ground School site.

After attending numerous school board meetings and public forums on this topic, the overwhelming public input has been to rebuild at Rundlett. Because of the significant vocal public support to rebuild at Rundlett, I was very surprised to hear recently that the school board may still be seriously considering the Broken Ground School site. This is the last opportunity for residents to share their input with the school board regarding the location of our new middle school. Here is why I support rebuilding at Rundlett.

Rebuilding at Rundlett would result in more students being able to walk or bike safely to school. One of the most impactful visuals I saw at the school board forum for public comment on September 26 showed 1.5-mile-radius circles drawn around the two proposed middle school locations. Only students living outside the radius would receive bus service to the middle school. The Rundlett location has far more houses within its circle, and therefore far more students would be able to access their middle school by foot or bike. On the other hand, students walking from the Heights would need to cross a major highway interchange to reach the Broken Ground School site.

Rebuilding at Rundlett supports the vast majority of public testimony from the September 26 and 27 school board forums, where nearly all the residents who shared their input supported Rebuilding at Rundlett. Many residents who lived close to Rundlett Middle School in Ward 7 explained why they liked having the school in their community. Many residents who live near Broken Ground School in Ward 10 shared concerns that the already challenging traffic from Broken Ground School could not safely accommodate more cars and buses from a new middle school.

Rebuilding at Rundlett would allow the school district to rebuild on an already impacted site with existing infrastructure rather than build in the natural area adjacent to Broken Ground School. A popular walking trail through the woods would need to be rerouted around a new middle school at Broken Ground School, and water and sewer infrastructure upgrades would also be required.

Some people have expressed concern about the feasibility of building a new middle school next to the existing Rundlett Middle School. However, the city has successfully built new schools on existing sites before, such as the Abbot-Downing/Conant School project. Indeed, when asked at a June 15, 2022, school board meeting if rebuilding at Rundlett would be problematic, the school board’s own architect provided reassurances that “we’ve worked in tighter lots.”

Rebuilding at Rundlett also would allow middle school students to continue enjoying proximity to the high school and Memorial Field. At the September 26 school district forum, a teacher at Rundlett made a compelling case for the value of allowing middle school students to easily visit the high school several times a year to support their successful transition to high school. In addition, the city has plans to upgrade Memorial Field, and having the middle school at Rundlett would benefit from those upgrades.

An important unanswered question remains regarding the costs for a new middle school at either location. What we do know is that the city would need to improve infrastructure to build at Broken Ground School, such as two additional bus routes, improved sidewalks for safe travel to school, and enhanced sewer and water lines.

Some people have expressed concerns about the potential disruption to students at Rundlett while a new middle school is being built on the same property. However, a short-term disruption shouldn’t play a significant role in the location of a school that should serve our community for another fifty-plus years. And I don’t make that statement lightly — based on the current schedule to build a new middle school, my second grader will be a student at Rundlett during the construction of the new middle school.

Rebuilding at Rundlett is the right solution for the long term. I appreciate all the hard work the Concord School Board has put into moving us closer to the necessary replacement of Rundlett Middle School. If you haven’t yet shared your input with the school board regarding this important decision, please make your voice heard and contact the school board before December 6.