Thursday, September 16, 2021

More about Maynard's School System

On September 30, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Maynard’s Schools Through the Centuries.” This is the eighth in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation. Register at The October talk will be “The Maynard Family.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History”, is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, WED-SAT, 12-5. 

Last week’s column about school buildings down the centuries had little to say about the people in those schools. As resources, the Maynard Public Library has copies of the town’s annual reports back to 1871, each with a subsection on the school system. Also useful, the Maynard Historical Society has a sizeable collection of the high school yearbooks, all of which have been scanned and can be read in their entirety on-line.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, town population 1800, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street, now site of the library. High school enrollment was 35 students.

Twenty-one years later. the high school graduating class of 1892 chose orange and black as the school colors. (The Town of Maynard decided on official town colors of blue and white in 1917. Who knew?)  Mr. E. Elmer Galger, principal and acting superintendent, was paid a salary of $1,061. At that time, state law required that a child shall go to school twenty weeks in each year until 14 years old (changed to 16 years old in 1913). Not until 1898 did state law prohibit children under 14 year of age doing factory work. Farm work had no age limit. Few students completed 12 years of schooling. Often, their parents encouraged them to leave school and get a job in order to supplement the family income. Circa 1910-20, the graduating class numbered in the teens.

Graduating class of 1917, Maynard High School, 
Maynard, MA (courtesy historical society)
The 1918-19 school year saw schools suspended for five weeks as part of the national effort to contain the influenza pandemic. In Maynard, deaths attributed to influenza/pneumonia amounted to a bit under one percent of the population. Nationwide, deaths were estimated at 0.6 to 0.8 percent of the population of 105 million.   

School annual reports provide information on peaks and valleys in school enrollment, and also on the quality of education. There had been a huge spike in births 1900-1920, reflecting a tripling in the town’s population after the American Woolen Company bought and expanded the woolen mill, and also built and rented houses in the “Presidential District.” There was a peak in school enrollment 1923-30, reaching 1,750 students. This was less than might have been expected considering births, but childhood mortality was high, and as noted, many students left school at the earliest possible age. Births were low 1930-45, not a surprise given the Great Depression and World War II. Enrollment had dropped to under 1,000 around 1943-47. Post-war, new housing on the north side of town in combination with the “Baby Boom” reaching a peak 1960-75, led to school enrollment cresting at 2,100 around 1968-75. Once the “Boom” children were past school years, enrollment dropped to around 1250 for 1986-93, and then recovered to the mid-teens, where it remains.

The 1909 annual report mentioned that among 14 neighboring towns, Maynard had by far the lowest school budget at $22,000. Come 1937, the budget was $98,000, and of a state survey of 83 towns, Maynard was 73rd in expenditure per student. Year after year after year, the school superintendents’ annual reports mentioned that Maynard lost teachers to other towns that paid more   

Alumni Field became the school's sports site long before the high school moved to the south side of town. In 1928, while Maynard High School was still at the Summer Street location, the town transferred the land that had been the Town Poor Farm meadow to the school department. The football team started using the new playing field for the 1928 season. Within a handful of years Alumni Field gained a cinder track around the playing field, bleachers, a field house and tennis courts.

Click on photos to enlarge
Until the mid-1960s, elementary and middle schools had morning and afternoon sessions, with children going home for lunch. Presumably their mother or another adult family member would be home days. Not until 1971 did schools start providing lunch. Also, until mid-1960s, high school hours were 8-1, with no afternoon session. Driver education started in 1949. Special Education, per new state law, started in 1955, with students initially being bused to Concord. WAVM went on the air in 1973, at 60 hours of radio broadcasting per week, with 75 licensed student broadcasters.   

Massachusetts voters endorsed the tax-increase-limiting Proposition 2-1/2 in 1980. A large impact to school operations was foreseen. In Maynard, this, in combination with a fast-declining enrollment, led to a massive disruption. In 1981, 51 positions eliminated (25 professionals and 26 non-teaching positions). Teacher:student ratios were increased. Coolidge School closed after 75 years of service.

AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION, which may have to wait for a third article, after the September 30 talk.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Maynard's Schools Through the Centuries

A chair from the "Brick
School", in the Maynard
Historical Society collection. 
Surprisingly, the two oldest school buildings – predating the creation of Maynard – are still with us. In the spelling of the era, the goals were to "teach children to rede and wright and cast accounts". Sudbury appears to have voted in 1779 to build a one-room schoolhouse for the northwest district, in 1871 moving that building farther north to what is now the intersection of Routes 27 and 117, where it served as Maynard’s “Turnpike School” until 1881. No longer a school, moved again in 1884 to corner of Concord and Acton streets – a distance of one mile – where it abides as a private home. On the Stow side of the Assabet River, District No. 5 had a school constructed in 1766: the “Brick School.” This was on Summer Street, hence became a Maynard school in 1871. It was closed the following year. It remains in place as part of the home at 101 Summer Street. Two other schools also pre-dated Maynard. One two-room building at the site of present-day Town Hall served until the town decided to replace it with its first multi-room brick school at the same site. The other, the first school on Nason Street, was lower grades, then first high school, then lower grades again.

At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street. Enrollment was 35 students. Six years later the high school classes relocated to a new two-room school on Acton Street, across from the east end of Main Street, leaving the Nason building to revert to elementary school.

Nason Street School (1892-2016)
The year 1892 saw a consolidation of Main, Nason, Acton and Sudbury schools into a two-story, twelve-room, wooden building at the Nason Street site, on the same stone foundation that is now the first floor of the Maynard Public Library. For a time, this was Maynard’s only school building, serving all grades.

The mill went bankrupt in 1898, then purchased and reopened in 1899 by the American Woolen Company. Expansion added the very large Building No. 5 on the south side of the millpond in 1902. The workforce grew, as did the town’s population: from 3,142 in 1900 to 6,390 in 1910. The population explosion of school-age children, especially in the Presidential Village housing development of 1901-03, led to the construction of new, brick-constructed schools at the Main Street site (1903) and on Bancroft Street (1906). The first was renamed Woodrow Wilson School in 1932. The second had a second floor of four more classrooms added in 1910 and was renamed Calvin Coolidge School in 1932.        

Remains of the Nason Street School fire
September 20, 1916, a nighttime fire brought an end to the Nason Street School. This was attributed to arson, as there had been a less damaging fire at the school just a week earlier. All that was left standing were the two brick chimneys. For a disaster, the timing was good. Three years earlier the town had voted to build a new high school, the site later chosen on Summer Street. The two-story brick building – currently the east wing of ArtSpace, was built at a cost of $61,500 and occupied October 2, 1916. This was the high school through 1964. A new, brick, elementary school was constructed at Nason Street, atop the foundation of the fire site. It opened fall of 1918, named Roosevelt School 1919. It served as a school through 1988, stood empty almost 20 years, resurrected as the Maynard Public Library, July 2006.

Meanwhile, back on Summer Street, the Town of Maynard, in its wisdom, decide to redirect a stream that flowed next to the high school into an underground storm sewer and build a junior high school, auditorium and gymnasium atop it (probably contributes to why ArtSpace is flood prone). The junior high opened January 1926, named Emerson Junior High School in 1932. After the high school moved to its new south-side campus in 1964, half the building became Fowler Elementary School and the whole complex became known as Emerson-Fowler School. In time, the junior high school took over the entire building as Fowler Middle School, remaining as such until the end of 2000.

Coolidge School originally built as one story
Back on Main Street, Wilson School was closed in 1942 because the school population had decreased dramatically, reopened in 1948 when the post-war baby boom started to arrive, and then was destroyed when a pre-dawn fire on December 17, 1952 left only the scorched brick exterior standing. This left Coolidge and Roosevelt as elementary schools.

The next phase for the Maynard school system was to create three schools adjacent to each other, on the south side of Route 117, each to have adequate parking and adjacent fields for physical education classes. Green Meadow School was first. Land was taken from Crowe Park. The school opened for the 1956-57 school year. Coolidge was kept on until 1981. A major addition to Green Meadow was approved in 1986, completed for the beginning of the 1988-89 year, which led to the closing of Roosevelt in 1988. “Maynard High School” was completed in 1964 at a cost of $1,700,000. Fowler Middle School (leave the old building, keep the name) opened in 2000. And then, in 2013, the fifth Maynard High School was replaced by the sixth Maynard High School, at a cost of $42,500,000. Note that over the years, two schools were completely destroyed by fire (Nason 1916, Wilson 1952) and three were significantly damaged (Nason 1879, Emerson-Fowler 1978, Maynard High School 1992).

Separate from the public school system: Mrs. Smith's School for Girls (1848-1857) was run by Mrs. Susan Smith at the Levi Smith place on Great Road. In 1965, Saint Bridget’s Parish opened Saint Bridget’s Parochial School in a brick building on Percival Street, on a filled-in section of the mill pond. The school was staffed by Sisters of Notre Dame, who had a modest convent near-by. The building is now home to The Imago School, a private school offering a Christian faith-based education for grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.


Yes, correct spelling "current"

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Statins and Muscle Weakness

First, a weather report. July, which averages about 3.5 to 4.0 inches of rain per month, saw 2021 as a near-record for Boston, at 10.07 inches, and a record for Worcester, at 13.85 inches. Figure Maynard for in between. It rained on 19 out of 31 days. The official numbers are not yet in to August, but rainfall was at least double the average of 4.0 inches. September started very wet, with the remnants of Hurricane Ida depositing 4.0 inches on Maynard. We may not set a record for precipitation for the year, but it could be close.

And now for something completely different (borrowing a segue from Monty Python's Flying Circus), let’s consider the effects of the cholesterol lowering drugs referred to as ‘statins’ on muscle strength. Statins lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by blocking cholesterol synthesis. The has been proven to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people are prescribed one of the six currently approved statin drugs. (For a while there was a seventh – cerivastatin - but it killed too many people.) Among the adverse side effects, the best known is “myopathy,” an umbrella term that includes fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle pain, muscle tenderness or cramps, and tendon pain. Some researchers use the terms “myalgia” or “statin-associated muscle symptoms.” A rare, very severe adverse muscle effect is rhabdomyolysis, characterized by severe muscle pain, liver damage and kidney damage.

   Generic names and brand names

  •    Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  •    Lovastatin (Altoprev)
  •    Pitavastatin (Livalo, Zypitamag)
  •    Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  •    Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor)
  •    Simvastatin (Zocor)

Much more common, perhaps on the order of 10 to 20 percent, is a self-diagnosed sense of muscle weakness and ache. The former can be as subtle as needing to do a hand-assist when standing up from a chair. From one study, onset of perceptible muscle symptoms took on average six months. Resolution after the statin was terminated was two to three months. A subset took longer, or felt that they never fully recovered. Myopathy is a reason why people decide to stop taking their prescribed statin, often without consulting with their doctor.

Women are more likely to develop statin-associated myopathy than men, ditto older people than younger, and people with a low body mass index, i.e., slender versus heavier. Having untreated hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, liver disease or kidney disease increase risk, as does heavy alcohol consumption. Interestingly, intense exercise or physical labor increases risk for statin myopathy, because that in-and-of-itself causes muscle damage.

The actual statistics on statins and myopathy get murky. First, there is a proven ‘nocebo’ effect. This term refers to the opposite of a placebo effect. If people have a negative expectation about a medication, they are likely to report the known adverse effects. For example, many people, given an inert pill but told it might cause nausea, experience nausea.  Even in the context of a placebo-controlled trial, the people getting the placebo are likely to report adverse effects, because they understand there is a 50:50 chance they are in the treatment group. In an entirely unethical test for side effects, people would need to be enrolled into a study under false pretenses, perhaps being told they were getting a drug to reduce the risk of the common cold, while really getting a statin or placebo.  

Statins are known to elevate creatine phosphokinase (CPK or CK) in the blood, because that is an indicator of muscle damage. However, some people can have elevated CK with no muscle symptoms, and other people symptoms, but normal range CK. A muscle biopsy (ouch!) can be used to identify muscle damage at the cellular level. For a patient presenting with muscle complaints and elevated CK, a physician may ask them to stop the statin for a month or more, to see if the muscle problems and/or CK resolve. If yes, it may still be possible to reintroduce statin therapy. Within the six available choices, some are known to have a lower risk of adverse effects and/or are still functional at a low dose taken every other day. This is a topic for discussion between a person and their physician.

Lastly, statins are known to suppress synthesis of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is necessary for generation of cellular energy. CoQ10 is sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. Consuming CoQ10 raises blood and organ concentrations of CoQ10. People report feeling that their muscle problems were diminished. However, reviews of multiple human trials of CoQ10 in people who are on statin drugs demonstrated no reduction in incidence or severity of myopathy. There were improvements in the treated group, but similar changes in the control groups, i.e., a placebo effect.

Mark says he is on a doctor-approved "statin holiday" because of modestly elevated CPK and muscle weakness. At one month he is seeing lower CPK and improvements in muscle strength and stamina. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

You've Been Wet Before (Maynard MA: Rain 2021)

Growing up in New Jersey suburbia, with three boys separated by a total of five years, plus a younger sister, we boys often got a command from our mother: “Go outside and play.” If we answered back with “But it’s raining,” The rejoinder was “You’ve been wet before.”

Which was true. We lived in a town that would in time become a bedroom suburb of 30,000, but at that time was a hamlet of maybe 5,000 containing abandoned farms gone to woodland, crisscrossed by old stone walls, dotted by depressions that had been root cellars, and wetted by creeks, springs and ephemeral (‘vernal’) ponds. Of course we got wet. How else could you catch frogs? We also got scratched by branches, fell out of trees, and suffered poison ivy mightily. There were broken limbs. There were stitches.  

Even constrained to the yard (“Don’t go anywhere, dinner soon.”) we still managed to get adventurously hurt, for there was stilt walking, unicycle riding, a tightrope wire set (low) between two trees, etc. Hatchet throwing, knife throwing and ninja stars were hard on trees, but luckily, we managed to avoid bloody messes. Mostly. My index finger fingerprint has a line through the center, dating back some 50-ish years. Trying to wiggle a knife out of a tree truck, it would have been wise to realize that the blade was sharp on both sides, all the way to the hilt.   

Debris jammed at bridges forced the flood waters 
over the banks, to gather more debris, to jam at
the next bridge. (Waverly, TN 2021)
As for when wet gets to be a problem, the recent disaster in Waverly, Tennessee points to the present and future problems of climate change. The math is simple: warmer air can hold more water – about seven percent for every one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit). More water vapor in the atmosphere means more moisture available to fall as rain, which leads to higher rainfall rates from severe storms. And to be precise as to what happened to Waverly, the town itself got only about two inches of rain, but the hill country to the east got as much as 17 inches in 24 hours, with a goodly part of that falling at a rate of more than 3 inches per hour, for hours. People in Waverly reported gong from seeing creek water in their yards to standing on top of their kitchen counters, water up to their waist, hoping the house stayed on its foundation. Many did not. Buildings, trailer homes and vehicles were pushed into streams where they became impromptu dams, causing the water to rise faster and spread wider.

Rain at that furious rate can happen two ways. One is a cold front displacing a warm air mass, creating a line of thunderstorms moving fast, typically without serious flooding. A second is hot and humid air rising until it reaches colder air tens of thousands of feet higher, where it condenses to rain and falls. If these cumulonimbus clouds happen to be completely stationary rather than lumbering across the countryside, all the rain falls in one place.

August 1955: Hurricane Diane. View of the Assabet River 
from the Main Street bridge, flooding into the mill buildings
(Courtesy Maynard Historical Society)
By the way, the Massachusetts record is 18.15 inches in 24 hours in Westfield, August 18-19, 1955. That was the remnants of warm, wet Hurricane Diane slow-walking across New England, resulting in a peak water level for the Assabet River that has not been surpassed in 65 years.

 According to a recent article in the New York Times, a thirty-year change in weather patterns across the United States is portrayed by a simple map: drier in the west, wetter in the east. Population growth in the west may be curtailed by lack of available water, while in the east, flood plain maps are dangerously outdated. Maynard’s flood history is severe flooding in 1927 (hurricane), 1936 (spring thaw plus rain), 1938 (hurricane) and 1955 (hurricane). More recent floods (1968, 1979, 1987 and 2010) were not as severe, primarily because federally funded flood control dams on the Assabet River and its tributaries provide several billions of gallons of holdback capacity to blunt peak high water. The greatest risk for surprise flooding in Maynard is not so much just the water volume as what can happen if downed trees in the river (of which there are several) are dislodged and end up jammed behind a bridge. This is exactly what cause the overflow and severe damage to the Waltham Street bridge in 1927. Older lifelong residents of Maynard can remember watching to see if the 1955 flood would take out any bridges.

At 10.07 inches for July, this was the second-wettest July for Boston; and the wettest for Worcester, at 13.85 inches of rain. August was abnormally rainy, and September started with 4.0 inches for Maynard from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. This could be a record year for precipitation.

What’s the difference between raining and pouring? When it’s raining, your hair gets wet. When’s pouring your underwear gets wet.