SPS COVID Updates

Aidan O'Sullivan, 2022

In an effort to keep residents as safe as possible, Somerville High School athletics are continuing without spectators throughout the end of January in effort to preserve the winter sports season. Most games that do take place are available through live streaming.


In reference to a significant rise in COVID cases found through in-school testing, Principal Buchanan acknowledged the importance in maintaining safety protocols including “mask wearing, physical distancing, and proper hand washing.” This also includes staying home if “you or a member of your household shows symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive.” Guidelines about students developing COVID symptoms or coming into close contact with an infected individual can be found in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or Hatian Creole at this link.


Somerville schools provided students and teachers with rapid COVID test kits before the break and asked that everyone do a rapid test before returning to school.


In response to this rise in infections, SPS will “continue to evaluate the situation closely” and stay in communication with families via weekly updates. Case numbers are also updated on the district dashboard.


In order to return to remote learning, SPS would have to apply for a waiver with the state of Massachusetts. Changes such as at-home rapid testing and no spectators at athletic events will ideally put the district in a better position to continue in-person learning and allow fans back in person to sports games and school events in February.



Elfland

by Evan Zraket, 2022


For decades, on the corner of Summer and School Streets, there was a gas station. It eventually closed and was torn down. Since then it has just been an empty lot, a rarity in a city where condos seem to be popping up like weeds. It was an eyesore.


It remained an empty lot until one day an 8-year-old boy was walking by with his family and thought he saw something there. Even though his parents did not see anything, the boy was sure that he saw elves digging.


Later, the family added some elf-sized "buildings" that were no bigger than birdhouses for the "elves." Some time later, the family walked past the lot again. This time, they noticed something about their miniature "village." There were new "buildings". They did not know who, but it seemed that strangers had contributed to Elfland.


Since then, there have been many contributions, such as a farm for plastic dinosaurs, an ice skating rink, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Market Baskey, a T station, and even a miniature version of the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square.


Elfland’s future is not exactly clear, and it is certainly not secure. There was a meeting on December 16th to discuss the future of the lot and by extension, Elfland. According to this WBZ-TV story, one plan is to put a “human-sized apartment building” in that space. In response, people have posted makeshift signs on the fence surrounding the lot that read “Save Elfland” and "Defend Elfland." In the meantime, its young creator said in that interview that he "hopes it makes people happy."


If you are interested in visiting this magical miniature village, it is at the corner of School Street and Summer Street. If you can't make the trip, it has its own Instagram page, and The Boston Globe ran a piece as well, all ensuring that "Elf magic" is alive and well in Somerville.


For more photos of Elfland, follow us on Instagram.

City of Somerville kicks off Highland Avenue Redesign Project with community forum

by Aidan O'Sullivan, 2022

Set to begin work in late 2023 and finish in 2024, the City of Somerville commenced its Highland Avenue redesign project with a public meeting on Wednesday, November 17. There is no concrete blueprint for the project to share as of now. The meeting, held on Zoom and open to all who pre-registered, previewed the motivations and vision for the project.


The meeting also gave the opportunity for community input and suggestions. This is a priority with the redesign, which is collecting parking, business, and visitor data to better inform the project. There is also a public input map on the project website where community members can provide comments and suggestions.


Aging pipes, constructed in the late 1800s - early 1900s and water quality problems were motivators for redesigning Highland. Thus, the city is coordinating the Spring Hill Sewer Separation Project and the Highland Ave Redesign Project to meet water needs as well as streetscape and mobility needs.


Potential benefits of this project include better traffic signals and patterns, better green stormwater infrastructure that will improve infiltration, and sewage, drainage, and water main repairs. It will also add protected bicycle lanes, which will require the limiting of parking to only one side of the street. However, parking will be made more efficient by focusing on rules regarding loading zones and pick up and drop off locations.


Increasing the accessibility of Somerville’s streets and sidewalks for people with mobility issues is also a focal point. All sidewalks will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The redesign hopes to better accommodate people of all mobility levels as well as those using any type of transportation, particularly bikes and buses. In a survey of 82 people done by the project committee, 53 of them got to Highland Ave by walking, biking, or bus. While only four of these were bikers, 11 said they would prefer to bike if it was safer. Somerville welcomes a wide range of transportation methods, and the redesign project wants to improve the viability of these methods on Highland.


Somervision2040, which aims to increase the percentage of commuters without cars in Somerville to 75% by 2040, has guided the green initiative of the redesign process.


The project is headed by Brad Rawson (Somerville’s Director of Transportation & Infrastructure), Justin Schreiber (Transportation Planner - Mobility Division), Kate White (Community Outreach Coordinator - Mobility Division), and Viola Augustin (Transportation Planner/Designer - Mobility Division). The link to information about the redesign and future meetings can be found here.

Movie Review: King Richard

by Evan Zraket, 2022

King Richard, the biopic about Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams, is now in theaters. The movie centers around the story of how, through sheer determination and support, he helped his daughters become the tennis stars that they are today. This movie is a breath of fresh air as it seems like many biopics that have come out recently make the subjects of the movie feel more like fictional characters than real people, some notable examples being House of Gucci and Bohemian Rhapsody. But King Richard does not shy away from the titular character’s real life flaws, and instead embraces them to make Richard feel less like a simple movie adaptation of a real person and more like a real person that could actually exist.


One way the movie does this is by expertly employing the technique of character intention. Over the course of the movie, Richard has a very noble goal of wanting to be a supportive, loving father who provides for his children and helps them succeed. Throughout the movie, he repeatedly emphasizes to his daughters the importance of planning ahead, working hard so they don’t remain in poverty, and giving their all to whatever they are doing. Despite these noble ideals, Richard goes about achieving these goals in a flawed way. He is shown to be very proud, confrontational, and extremely stubborn and rigid. All of these flaws are what create and drive the conflict of this movie, which is less about Richard getting his daughters to play professional tennis and more about him overcoming his own shortcomings so that he does not jeopardize the plan that he has worked so hard to achieve.


The character flaws are not just unique to Richard. Every character has their shortcomings, though not to the detriment of the movie. Instead it actually makes it that much better, as it makes the characters more believable and the plot more genuine. A lot of times in movies, characters will be more animated and display stronger emotions than is considered socially acceptable. This movie is an exception. The characters in this movie behave like normal people would if they were in those situations. This understatement of the emotions helped develop the narrative, removing distractions and focusing on the dynamic between Richard, his family, and the people around him. The audience sees Richard’s undying determination slowly tearing his family apart, his realization of that, and his reconciliation with his family.


There was one scene, which was the climactic scene of the movie, where Richard and his wife completely lose their composure and have a shouting match, which I consider to be one of the best written scenes I have seen in modern cinema. While the writing was overall strong, the actors did an excellent job of bringing these characters to life and making them feel like real people.


Will Smith did an exceptional job of highlighting the positive and negative sides of Richard Williams and how those combine to make him a whole person. Jon Bernthal demonstrated how dynamic of an actor he is. Bernthal as tennis coach Rick Macci was unlike any character he has played before. His light hearted mannerisms and upbeat nature were among the many strong elements. I first saw Bernthal in one of his earlier projects, the dark and gritty show, Daredevil on Netflix (check it out if you haven’t; it is the absolutely phenomenal), so every time Macci was on screen, I said to myself “There's no way that's the same guy who played the Punisher.”

Overall I highly recommend this movie. The enjoyment is not exclusive to people who enjoy tennis, and if you don’t have time to go to a theater, you can catch it on HBO Max.