• School committee votes to relocate memorial, trees dedicated to fallen students

    By: Elysia Rodriguez

    Updated:

    BILLERICA, Mass. - Billerica is ready for a new high school, but there are some memories from the old one that many pleaded with the school committee to preserve. 

    In the early '90s, six teens died before graduating high school; a memorial was dedicated to them, including six trees.

    But during construction of the new school, plaques with their names were moved without warning. One of those plaques had Chris Dunakin's brother Jeff’s name on it.

    "Respect for the sanctity of all memorials is a matter of principal we simply cannot fathom how any could feel differently," said Chris Dunakin.

    "This memorial is a sign that our town and his high school haven't forgotten [Jeff] and other students," said Bethany Dunakin, a member of Billerica Memorial High School’s (BMHS) Class of 1994.

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    The future of six trees planted in their memory was also uncertain.

    "This memorial has served and still serves as a way for friends and family, and the town, to cope with the heavy loss we all felt then and we still feel now," said Michelle Morgan, BMHS Class of '94. 

    After hearing from the family of the students memorialized and alumni who helped build the memorial, the school committee voted to relocate any memorials that were at the old school to the new school – including the trees.

    "We are very happy about the outcome," said Jennifer Rao, BMHS Class of '94. "We know there's a lot of work left to do."

    But Thomas Murphy, the current principal of BMHS, offered some words of caution.

    Physical memorials on school grounds are no longer allowed – and the debate over this one has left many other parents feeling left out.

    "We've lost other students. We lost a student two years ago." Murphy said. 

    "One is not more important than the other, and my point is that if we are going to take time to form a committee to talk about commemorating the lives that have been lost at BMHS, I hope then you open that up to all the lives lost at BMHS."

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    The committee also voted to form a committee to help determine where to put the memorial and how to relocate the trees. The new school is expected to open this fall.

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