Council Discusses Fundamental School

Parents Like Back-to-Basics Approach

At its regular meeting yesterday, Cambridge City Council members discussed the problem of finding a new home for Cambridge's Fundamental High School--a special school under the direction of Cambridge Latin which emphasizes basic reading and writing skills.

Supporters of the fundamental school, which attracts over 400 students and has become increasingly popular over the past few years, want to refurbish an abandoned elementary school which formerly housed the Russell Elementary School.

Some city councilors would not approve the renovations either because they thought the renovation costs were too high, or because they thought the separation of the fundamental school from Cambridge Latin would undermine the latter institution.

About one hundred parents who send their children to the Fundamental School attended the meeting to applaud supporters of the school and to denounce those who seemed ambivalent.

"We're not asking for the moon. We just want a gymnasium and enough classroom space," John A. Gilbertti, a member of the Fundamental School's relocation committee, said yesterday.

"You read the papers today about all the young people who can't read and write and it's pathetic. This building is needed to support a school which will give our young people the type of education they need to get along in the world," Gilbertti said.

The Fundamental School now has a waiting list of over 200 students, and the popularity of the new school has reversed a flight of students to private and parochial schools, city councilors and officials said.

Councilor Saundra J. Graham incited the wrath of the Fundamental School's supporters by saying that allowing the Fundamental School to split from Cambridge Latin would set a precedent for the three other special schools connected with Cambridge Latin to do the same.

Donald Fantini, a member of the Cambridge School Committee and founder of the Fundamental School, said, "It will cost $80,000 to tear down the old Russell building. We might as well spend $300,000 and make a useful facility out of it."

Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci, exasperated after hours of debate, quickly brought the meeting to a halt by saying "What are we talking about? What are we doing here? We don't have to approve a $300,000 appropriation. All we have to do is approve a resolution encouraging the school committee to investigate this further."

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