For The Daily Item
Reading Michael Derman’s letter to the editor (Jan. 8) prompted several very specific reactions. First, the author does not understand the concerns of the opposition, as he maintains, if in fact he thinks the concerns are not about educational quality and he thinks the opponents include only borough residents. The opposition cites independent resources indicating that reusing historic structures is compatible with 21st century learning. Interestingly, there is no independent, evidence-based material which shows that building a brand new facility improves educational quality (over a well appointed and properly maintained existing structure).
Second, the citizens option he mentions came in third in a field of 15 options at the public meeting in 2009. All together the four Newman property options garnered 38 percent of the total votes at that event. The seven different options reusing the existing school as a school netted 45 percent of the votes. Also, the balance went to several additional smart growth proposals. These counts were based on materials on the district website. Independent of how the results are interpreted, can the 100 or so people present at the meeting really be said to constitute a comprehensive public voice?
Third, renovation and addition of the existing school is not mere hand-waving. Rather, it is an opportunity to create the collaborative and exemplary spaces being sought. The district’s feasibility study concluded that the existing building could be renovated and expanded to match the proposed size and capacity of the Newman project for less money for the building alone, and far less money if all the costs of additional infrastructure at the Kelly site are included.
Fourth, at the borough council meeting he refers to, the district misrepresented their own process (see second item), and the results of their own feasibility study. They claimed to be collaborating with the community on repurposing while shutting them out of the first three years of discussion and the drafting of the RFP. People were honestly frustrated.
Fifth, this debate has been going on for 30 years. It’s time to abandon an outdated solution from three decades ago and make room for a 21st century solution.
Finally, the core group opposing the high school move is not suffering from sour grapes but rather is advocating that there be a full hearing of the issues. The public, once informed, should then have an opportunity to vote on such significant spending. The core group is quite ready to let the will of the people decide. Let’s have a referendum.