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Twelve years ago, my husband and I found ourselves searching for a house in the Boston suburbs with our infant son. Relocating from another state, we had a very specific “wish list”: safe, affordable, easy access to the city, and good schools. We fell upon Reading by accident, and were immediately taken by the quaint town center, the tree lined streets, and friendly neighbors. We bought a little fixer-upper, within walking distance to the schools, YMCA and library and have spent the last decade improving the house, and adding to our family. We now find ourselves with three boys- two of whom are educated in general education, and one who is enrolled in the special education program.
Several Reading residents have already written to describe the dire need for an override, lest the school system suffer. As a parent of three school-aged children, that is an obvious concern of mine as well. However, the more urgent consideration for our family is the impact on public safety, specifically upon emergency services personnel.
Our youngest son is medically complex, and his condition sometimes requires emergent care. For better or worse, our family is well known amongst the Reading firefighters, EMT’s and police department. Their support and professionalism has always been immensely appreciated. They have rushed to our son’s aid at home, and at school. Recently, they even helped him during a medical crisis on his school bus.
Our family’s experience with an ill child can be challenging, but it would be infinitely more difficult if we did not have a strong public service system to rely upon. The harsh reality is that Reading’s population has steadily grown, yet their emergency personnel staffing has not. This town has been generally four police officers, and four firefighters below target levels; in fact, we have 14 fewer personnel than we did in 1975! We are not the only family who found this town perfect for their needs, and we are also not the only ones with a family member who requires medical care.
Reading is one of the only towns in our area with an Advanced Life Support system. This means that if my son needs critical life support, and that unit was responding to a call in a neighboring town, a Basic Life Support unit must be sent in it’s stead. While any assistance in a life threatening situation is welcomed, when you have a child struggling to breathe or your spouse or parent is having a stroke or heart attack, you want the most expedient and comprehensive life support available. It should be noted that in the first 11 months of 2017, 68% of the emergency responses were to those 55 years of age and older, which only proves that this override is needed for more than just our school aged population.
Twelve years later, our “wish list” still stands true: safe, affordable, easy access to the city, and good schools. But recent cost increases, and a population boom has sealed the fate for our schools and town. For the continued safety and health of our community, I implore you to vote YES on April 3