It was a busy — and, often times, tough — year for Andover.

A teachers’ strike and a debate over a proposal to build a new high school cast divisions between officials and amongst neighbors. A father shot and killed his wife and son before turning the gun on himself. A truck hit and killed five-year-old girl as she crossed the street in Elm Square.

But there was also lots of good news: May’s tragedy in Elm Square set off a town-wide discussion on pedestrian safety, leading to safety changes. The Andover High School girls’ basketball team capped off a perfect season with a state title, while the field hockey team fell one goal short of capturing a third straight Division I championship.

In our first full year of operation, Andover News covered it all and so much more. Today, in no particular order, we take a look back at five of the top stories from 2023.

Teachers Get Contract, School Committee Threatens Cuts And Layoffs

Andover Public Schools teachers walked off the job in November, canceling school for three days and forcing the school committee to finalize a new contract.

Parents and students were mostly in support of the Andover Education Association’s push for a living wage for instructional assistants, among other sticking points in the ten months of negotiations leading up to the strike.

In the end, the two sides agreed to a contract that will cost Andover $12.5 million — a number the school committee is warning will lead to program cuts and layoffs. The extent of those cuts will not be known until the budget process leading up to this spring’s annual town meeting plays out.

Special Town Meeting Kills New AHS Proposal

A year ago, Andover News predicted a final decision on the new Andover High School would not come until 2024 — at the earliest.

A year ago, Andover News was wrong.

Last month, special town meeting effectively made that final decision, funding a $500,000 study to look at upgrades to prolong the life of the existing building and shooting down a request for $1.3 million to do a detailed design – and presumably get a more accurate cost estimate — for the $451.5 million proposal for a new school.

While both measures could have moved forward, setting up better comparisons between the two plans, opponents and proponents of the new school cast the special town meeting votes as an “either-or” proposition.

In the end, Andover’s legislative body chose “or,” scared off by the preliminary price tag of the new school and scrapping more than a year’s worth of work by the Andover High School building committee.

Tragedy In Elm Square

Decades of complaints about pedestrian safety in Elm Square didn’t lead to change. Tragically, it wasn’t until five-year-old Sidney Olson was hit and killed by a truck on May 9 while crossing the street with her family for the Town to address the longstanding safety concerns.

Olson’s death led to the creation of Sidney’s Rainbows, a nonprofit that, in part, was formed to advocate for safety changes. WalkBikeAndover mobilized a petition drive to keep pressure on officials. Sidney’s father, Eric, spoke at meetings and safety forums calling for changes.

Already, the Town has responded by making lane and signal adjustments, and will continue to evaluate roadway safety throughout Andover, with more promised in the future.

Tragedy On Porter Road

Andrew Robinson was having trouble sleeping and seeking treatment for physical and mental health issues when he shot and killed his wife and 12-year-old son before turning the gun on himself on Feb. 9.

“While we can never know everything going on inside someone’s home or mind, we’re absolutely clear domestic violence can’t be tolerated for any reason, and that there’s a mental health crisis in our country,” Essex County District Attorney Paul Tucker said in the wake of the tragedy. “I urge those in need – and those who care about them – to reach out to us, the state government and outside groups for support. No one should feel alone as they cope with these problems.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 9-8-8 or the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741 anytime.

Storms Deliver Late Summer One-Two Punch

“I’ve lived here [X-number of] years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

That was the common refrain in September after a microburst ripped through Town, downing trees and knocking out power to all but a few pockets of Andover. The Friday afternoon storm canceled school on the following Monday, when hundreds of residents still had no electric service.

Town officials estimate it will take up to five years to complete all of the cleanup work — particularly in wooded areas. Less than one month earlier, Andover was hit with flash flooding on Aug. 8 and 18. The Town is seeking state and federal funding to offset the flood damage costs.

A microburst caused millions of dollars of damage in Andover on Friday, Sept. 8.

What do you think were the biggest Andover stories in 2023? Leave your comments below.

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