On Friday, March 8, the Winter Hill Community Innovation School (WHCIS) community received an email from Somerville Public Schools with distressing news about the highly-anticipated reunion of the WHCIS Pre-K and K classes with the rest of the school. The email explained that a change to the assessed value of the Edgerly building now housing WHCIS meant that the work scheduled for this summer to renovate the basement of the building for Pre-K and K classes could not proceed as planned. Under state regulations, when renovation costs over a three-year period exceed 30 percent of that building's assessed value, this triggers mandatory accessibility and other code upgrades. Therefore, SPS was alerted WHCIS families via that email to the possibility that the planned reunification of the entire Pre-K to Grade 8 WHCIS community under one roof in the fall was up in the air.

Wildcats Can't Wait yard sign

On March 11, the SPS Enrollment Office began reaching out to families of Pre-K and K students next year who had indicated WHCIS as their first preference. A number of families reported being told in no uncertain terms that WHCIS Pre-K and K classes would be at the Capuano again for the 2024/25 school year. Whether this was intentional messaging or a mistake, the result was widespread alarm in the WHCIS community that a decision already had been made. And it's also concerning for the long-term future of the school because of how Pre-K and K are the pipeline for schools.

At the March 18 School Committee meeting, the City's Infrastructure and Asset Management Director Rich Raiche and Capital Projects Director Melissa Woods provided a memo providing a detailed explanation of the situation, the considerations, and answers to some of the questions being asked by the WHCIS community. The best assessment of the situation is that the City is scrambling to figure out how to get the WHCIS community back together for next school year and looking at potential creative solutions to make this happen. But with the end of the school year (and start of the school construction season) now a mere 83 days away and the first day of the 2024/25 school year just over five months away, they're racing against the clock.

I know how much it means to the entire Wildcat community be reunited. I hear from beleaguered parents of WHCIS Pre-K and K students unexpectedly stuck doing four drop-offs and pickups per school day. It's clear the current situation at the Capuano for WHCIS Pre-K and K is far from ideal for students and puts significant strain on teaching teams and specialists, who have to split time between two locations. So I worry about that impacting learning and educator retention.

If we have not already done so, I want to see the City hire a code consultant, as we did with the high school. While a full report might take months -- in addition to the competitive bidding process, assuming we aren't able to get a waiver from the state for that -- a code consultant might be able to get us a summary memo of the findings of a simple review of things like whether asbestos abatement, roof repair, and any playground work might be except from counting toward that 30-percent trigger. A code consultant also could give us a definitive report on which accessibility and other code requirements would be triggered if we did hit that 30-percent threshold.

I'll be watching and hoping that we're able to do right by a school community that has been through the wringer.


Jake Wilson


Somerville City Councilor-At-Large (he/him/él)