Westfield residents split over proposed elementary school - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Westfield residents split over proposed elementary school

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WESTFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

Within the city, there is an overriding theme that a new elementary school is needed, but people are divided on where the location of that school should be.

"The neighbors feel that it's about the size of the Green Monster at Fenway Park," said Westfield City Councilor Dave Flaherty, as he addressed the site on Cross Street, where work had already begun on a new elementary school.

Flaherty said neighbors in the area have taken legal action to halt the process.

"This land turned out to be protected," Flaherty stated. "The neighbors found out about it and they sued.  They got an injunction to stop the city from using the land."

Flaherty said the city is now attempting to swap the protected land with a nearby farm, but the farm owners do not want to sell.

"If we stay together as a community and the kids aren't dispersed throughout the city, I think that we'll be okay," said Katherine Zavras-Bentrewicz, co-president of the Juniper Park Parent Teacher Cooperative.

Both Zavras-Bentrewicz and Elli Meyer, the other co-president, have children that attend Juniper Park School, which is set to close at the end of the next school year.

Their group strongly supports the effort to get the Cross Street school built.

"The location was chosen because there was a school previously at that location," said Zavras-Bentrewicz. "It's not like they tore down a shopping mall to put a school there."

The two said not building the school on Cross Street could be costly to the rest of the community, as the school board may have to spend millions to rehabilitate older schools.  

"It just has to be there now," said Zavras-Bentrewicz. "We need to move past that as a city and just embrace the future and the great things that can happen in that building if it's actually built."

But city leaders said the parents have a pretty big fight on their hands with Cross Street residents.

"They have a series of legal actions in their queue," said Flaherty. "They will fight this. This school is not going up any time soon and beliefs that it will are mistaken."

Flaherty has proposed sending the students who would attend Juniper Park across the border to Russell, where there is an old elementary school available as a temporary solution.

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