Westwood's Newest Elementary School Will Be Named By Its Students


Rendering of front entrance and canopy of Hanlon-Deerfield school, from School Building Committee Presentation (Aug. 5, 2021).

The honor of choosing the official name for Westwood’s new elementary school, which is under construction on Gay Street and will consolidate the existing Hanlon and Deerfield elementary schools, belongs to the students who will attend the new school, decided Westwood School Committee at its Thursday, March 9th meeting.

Additionally, although the Hanlon School will be demolished to make way for the new school's playing fields, the Hanlon name continue to be honored at the same site. The new school’s playing fields will be called the Paul R. Hanlon Athletic Complex, School Committee also decided.

School Children to Name New School: Pine Hill or Pine Oak?

School Committee received around 200 responses to its request for the community’s ideas for naming the new school. Each committee member selected two favorites. The resulting six finalist names were discussed, with reasons behind their proposal:

  • “Avery Oak” was offered as a reference to the legendary tree on the Town of Westwood’s seal. It also refers to the new school’s setting amongst trees and the importance of open space in Westwood.
  • “Islington” references the sense of town pride, as the Islington section of Westwood continues to develop, revitalize, and represent a symbol of the Town of Westwood’s rebirth.
  • “Lowell Woods” is a nod to the importance of conservation and the proximity of the new school to Lowell Woods.
  • “Pine Hill” was offered as the original name of the Hanlon School, and was the name chosen by its school children, many years ago. The new school will also overlook conservation land and pine trees, tucked in a hill.
  • “Pine Oak” refers to a school in the woods, an idea also mentioned in the early stages of designing the new school. The school will be set among pine and oak trees. A single, large oak tree that stands near the current school building will remain as part of the new school. It happens to resemble the oak on the Town of Westwood’s seal.
  • “Shuttleworth” was proposed to honor Hannah Shuttleworth, the Dedham philanthropist who was daughter of Dedham’s first postmaster and whose name would serve as a reminder of Westwood’s connection to Dedham, before Westwood split off and incorporated in 1897.

Find this interesting? For news like this, subscribe to Westwood Minute!

As the committee discussed the options, Vice Chair Anthony Mullin proposed that the school's students themselves should select the name. The rest of the committee quickly supported the idea. It was seen as a way to help create unity among the different school cultures of Hanlon School and Deerfield School when they converge on a consolidated school campus. Superintendent Emily Parks also noted that the students will have chance to take part in crafting their identity at the new school.

Photo by Westwood Minute/Darlene Wong Cancell. A bench at Deerfield School bears the school's name.

The committee agreed, however, to first narrow the selections to two choices. “Pine Hill” and “Pine Oak” came up as the clear favorites.

Following the discussion, School Committee unanimously voted to delegate the naming of the new, consolidated school to the students of Deerfield School and Hanlon School.

Paul R. Hanlon Continues to Make a Mark at New School

In deciding to name the consolidated school’s playing fields the “Paul R. Hanlon Athletic Complex,” the committee sought a way to continue to honor Mr. Hanlon’s memory. School Committee member Maya Plotkin acknowledged that demolition of the existing Hanlon School is being experienced as a loss by Mr. Hanlon’s family.

Photo from Westwood Public Schools, http://www.westwood.k12.ma.us/hanlon-school/

During this discussion, Mr. Hanlon’s daughters, Sandra and Mildred, spoke up to make their attendance known at the School Committee meeting. They were then invited to speak to their father’s memory.

Mr. Hanlon was born and raised in Westwood, and lived his entire life in the town, they noted. Mr. Hanlon’s wife, their mother, was also from a Westwood family. They, themselves, continue to consider Westwood home. Mr. Hanlon had eight children and five grandchildren who all graduated from Westwood High School. He was a telephone wire repair man who had plans to earn a degree to become a schoolteacher. He set those plans aside, however, to serve Westwood as a Selectman. He put the town first, they said. Children and education were important to him and close to his heart. He is buried in Westwood Cemetery, under a headstone with an etching of the Hanlon School.

School Committee Chair Charlie Donahue observed that the new school’s playing fields will be built upon the same site of Hanlon School. Westwood children will continue to use Mr. Hanlon’s name as they reference the fields where they will be meeting with friends to play their games. Mr. Hanlon will continue to be honored at the site where the Hanlon School once stood, said Mr. Donahue.

In action items at the end of the meeting, School Committee unanimously agreed to dedicate the new school’s playing fields to the memory of Paul R. Hanlon.

For hyperlocal news straight to your inbox, subscribe to Westwood Minute!

You may also enjoy:

- Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for New Westwood Elementary School

- Amanda Phillips Announces Candidacy for Re-election to Westwood's School Committee

- JoAnna French Runs for Westwood School Committee

- Tentative Agreement Ratified by WTA, Westwood School Committee

- Expecting State Funding, School Department Revises its Proposed FY 2024 Budget, Restores Staff Positions

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified