Pandemic brings busy week in Abington

School committee and planning board with big decisions this week; graduation on Saturday.

[DISCLOSURE: The author of this article is also a member of the Abington Planning Board.]

The beginning of August is usually slow in Abington, with the focus more on vacations and summer camps than municipal governance.

But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unusual confluence of events that means it will be a busy week on Gliniewicz Way.

The school committee Tuesday will make a closely watched decision on what school will look like for the town’s 2,100 students this fall.

The planning board will take the rare step of meeting both Monday and Tuesday in order to wrap up public hearings on a large apartment project proposed next to the commuter rail station, a second retail marijuana shop, and a commercial development off Hancock Street.

And Abington’s Class of 2020 will finally get their diplomas on Saturday during a revised ceremony on the front lawn of the Middle/High School.

All of this will happen while state and local health officials keep their eye on the latest COVID-19 numbers, which are showing signs of inching back upward. This will discussed at the Board of Health’s meeting Monday night, as well as enforcement around the Baker Administration’s toughened rules around traveling out of state.

Every public school district in Massachusetts is required to let the state Department of Early and Secondary Education know within the next few days whether they will be holding in-person classes this fall, returning to remote learning, or a hybrid of both.

The Abington School Committee is expected to make its final vote Tuesday night. A preliminary vote taken last week revealed a split board, with two members in favor of in-person learning, two in favor of a hybrid approach, and one preferring remote learning.

Since the meeting, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest educators’ union, announced its local unions will push to start the school year with remote learning. Steve Shannon, president of the Abington Education Association, said his group has been negotiating with school administrators and planned to release a statement prior to the meeting Tuesday.

Abington News has learned that school committee members have received dozens of emails from Abington teachers encouraging them to support remote learning.

The school committee meeting will start at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Those interested in watching can do so via Abington Community Access & Media’s Education Channel (Comcast channel 14, Verizon channel 26) or the station’s Facebook page. Residents can also dial in to the meeting at 646-558-8656; meeting ID 862 9031 8357; password 728527.

The planning board which traditionally does not hold a meeting in August, will meet on back-to-back nights in order to conduct public hearings on a number of projects that have been lingering since public meetings were paused back in March

Because a number of the outstanding public hearings involved visual presentations and exhibits, as well as the need for public input, the planning board has been able to delay the hearings under rules put in place by the Baker administration.

On Monday night the board will resume a hearing for the town’s second retail marijuana shop, which is proposed for 1410 Bedford St.

The planning board has already approved permitting for one retail marijuana shop, Bud’s Variety, which will be located at 1540 Bedford St. That store is scheduled to open this fall.

 During the second pot shop’s hearing back in December, the planning board raised a number of concerns including, driveway access, parking for customers, site access parking, and other site-related issues. The proposed location previously was a residential house with a retail shop in the front until about 2015 when it was sold and converted fully into commercial space.

 Also up for discussion is a commercial development at 940 Hancock Street. The project is proposed by Feeney Brothers, which would use the site as a storage and warehouse site for their South Shore-based equipment and materials. Additional commercial warehouse space would be made available for other contractors. It is proposed for a 28-acre site located between residential houses and wetlands. The land is part of the town’s Multiple Use Planned Development District, which allows for larger residential and commercial developments.

 On Tuesday the planning board is expected to vote on a proposed 156-unit residential development located at the Summer Street entrance of the town’s commuter rail station.

The board has been reviewing the project for nearly a year as it has undergone a series of revisions and reworks in response to concerns raised by neighbors and board members. Neighbors in particular are concerned that the additional residential units will add more traffic onto Summer Street, which is already a busy cut through between Routes 58 and 18.

 The project is proposed for the town’s transit oriented development zoning district, which town meeting approved several years ago to encourage the construction of rental housing for commuters. 

The planning board at the last meeting warned project proponents that because hearings on the project had been dragging on for so long, it would likely take a final vote on the project at its next meeting, and to ensure the proposal was finalized.

The planning board’s Monday meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at town hall; its Tuesday meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. in the middle/high school auditorium. It audience size exceeds the capacity limit for either room, the public hearing will be postponed.

The week caps off with the Abington High School Class of 2020 graduation ceremony, which will take place Saturday morning at 10 a.m. In order to limit the size of the crowd, graduates can only bring two guests; the general public is not able to attend. Family members, friends, and Abington residents will be able to view the graduation ceremony live on Abington Community Access & Media’s Education Channel (Comcast channel 14, Verizon channel 26).

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