Independent Thoughts: In challenging times, Hopkinton shows strength

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A boy walks his dog through an empty parking lot at Hopkinton High School on the morning of March 18, which would have been a typically full day prior to the coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

Talking to people in authority in Hopkinton during this trying time, one quickly realizes how fortunate we are to live in a town that has its act together. Together being the key word. While nationally the squabbling and divisiveness tear apart our country, in Hopkinton the oars are all moving in the same direction. And somehow little ol’ Hopkinton appears far better prepared to handle an emergency like this than our national government.

“We have a group that we call the School Safety Task Force,” explained Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh. “It’s made up of the fire chief, the deputy fire chief, several of the officers from the Hopkinton Police Department, including the [school resource officers], our Buildings and Grounds director, Youth and Family Services — there’s a whole group of people who get together with some frequency. And we very often talk about what would it look like if we had a chemical spill, or what would it look like if there were a gas leak. So we create a lot of those kinds of scenarios.

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“And one thing that’s been really helpful is our familiarity with each other. We all know each other now so well, and we communicate so well that getting us all into a room together to talk about what needs to be done has not been difficult at all.”

Cavanaugh noted that the first few days school was shut down in mid-March technically counted as “snow days” — work days teachers would have to make up in June.

“We had been sort of reluctant to reach out to them and ask them to work because we don’t want them to have to work twice for the same pay,” Cavanaugh said. “[When the postponements started] the teachers were really, really good about helping us out even though it wasn’t technically a work day, and [since then] they’ve been great.”

Cavanaugh also said that since the department shifted to videoconferencing to avoid close physical contact the turnout has been close to 100 percent.

“Part of me wonders if the [high level of] participation on the part of our faculties at these [videoconferencing] meetings — I truly believe it’s because people are markedly professional, but I also wonder if they don’t get a sense of comfort even being together electronically,” she said.

Meanwhile, Health Department director Shaun McAuliffe lauded the help of school nurses, who shifted over to his department after the schools closed. The nurses have helped track Hopkinton’s COVID-19 cases — as of March 17 there were three known cases and 22 others suspected of having the virus — tracing their histories to determine where they might have contracted the disease and who they came in contact with since that time.

On a regional level, 26.2 Foundation executive director Tim Kilduff raved about the way Boston Marathon organizers and area politicians — including Hopkinton Select Board member John Coutinho — quickly came together and rescheduled the iconic race from April to September.

“If you look at this collaboration that was created … this collaboration really becomes a model,” Kilduff said. “They’re ahead of the game. Maybe it’s the kind of thing we ought to be doing nationally. People ought to start thinking in this collaborative way.”

Pyne’s legacy lives on

Longtime resident and volunteer firefighter Francis Pyne passed away last month, but the impact he made on fellow residents is still being felt.

A group of individuals donated a total of $495 to the Ambulance Fund in his memory, which allows the town to purchase much-needed life-saving equipment.

Francis’ wife, Phyllis, reached out to the Independent to share her gratitude for the outpouring of support her family — including Francis’ brother, Artie, and Artie’s wife, Dottie — has received.

“Whether you kept us in your thoughts and prayers, sent a lovely arrangement, gave a memorial donation or helped us in any way, your love and kindness brought us great comfort and will always be remembered,” Phyllis said.

Progress on parking

The town is making some progress on acquiring land for a downtown parking lot. At its March 10 meeting, the Select Board voted to accept the deed and trustee’s certificate for 6 Walcott Street from the seller, Joseph D. Marquedant, trustee of Walcott Street Realty Trust, and execute an order for taking of the property.

The board also authorized town counsel to negotiate and sign any and all documents necessary to effectuate the purchase of the property, which is located behind Town Hall and is slated to serve as parking.

The town is paying $510,000 for the property, which was approved at last year’s Annual Town Meeting. …

Kudos to the New England Laborers’ Training Center, which recently made two donations to the town, a $10,000 donation to the Tax Relief Fund and a $5,000 gift for Senior Transportation. The Select Board voted to graciously accept the donations at its March 10 meeting.

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