Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The new high school palace will be built

I'm so bummed. Our city has been so wrapped up in the plans for the new high school that pretty much nothing else is happening. We've gone through enough trauma over this freaking school to make any citizen consider packing up and moving to Antartica. Yeah, it's that bad. The highlights are difficult to follow, so sit down with a nice alcoholic beverage and I'll try to enlighten you.

The city has two high schools. North and South. North was last updated when the original single high school was divided into two separate districts in the late 1960's. North was built on the other side of the site from the former high school and opened in 1970. The current building looks like a prison. It is a red brick monstrosity with few windows, iron stairs on the outside of the building, and is architecturally hideous. It is also a 'sick building' with terrible air quality, an inadequate HVAC system, no windows that open, many classrooms with no windows at all, and is falling apart. Evidentally schools are only made to last about 30 years, since the city has been discussing either remodeling this building, or building a new high school since 1999.

It was determined by the Aldermen that remodeling wasn't feasible and thus the city determined that a new school would be built. Yeah, that wasn't the most popular decision, plus it is very costly. Throughout the last 3 years plans were drawn up, meeting upon meetings were held, and the Aldermen decided upon a site plan that was very unpopular with the city. So unpopular in fact, that the a group was formed to get this site plan put to a popular vote.

Oh man, that was a mess and a half. Although there were way over the requisite amount of signatures for a ballot initiative, the former election commissioner for the city claimed that there were not enough votes and the initiative failed. But the committee formed to put the initiative on the ballot, and our local newspaper found that hard to believe, so they challanced the count. They did so by sitting down and counting the signatures and validating them themselves. Turned out that the election commissioner "lost" something like 15 pages of signatures that were never validated. But the recount showed that there were indeed more than enough signatures and thus the ballot initiative passed.

While waiting for the vote, which was today, lawn signs were posted all over town, the local blogs were filled with posts about the pros and cons of the site plan and the extreme cost of the plan, the Mayor made statements about how we would lose goverment funds of $46 million if we didn't vote for the site plan, there were questions about the low interest loans given by the state, and plenty of propaganda was bandied about. The city newspaper was filled to the brim with articles and editorials. The letters to the editor were chock full of opinions on this one topic.

In other words, the city was completely and totally fixated on this vote. Every conversation I've had with friends here in the city have been been partly about the vote. I've discussed the pros and cons so often I feel like I'm consumed with this damn high school. I swung back and forth like a pendulum on how I was going to vote, and only decided in the past couple of days which way I was leaning.

I voted against the school. I did so because I think it is vastly too expensive, it isn't a green school, it is planned by an architect (Graham Gund) who is very famous, but has only designed one school before, and that was for the Walt Disney Corporation. The site plan he submitted is ridiculous. It is very overpriced, it makes poor use of the site, it makes all the outdoor athletic stadiums and fields obsolete so we have to rebuild the entire site, and lastly it has classrooms that are way too small.

I do want a new school to be built, but not that school. I happen to love much of Graham Gund's work. The library he did for the Town of Lincoln is one of my favorite local buildings. I think he's very talented. But this plan isn't his best work, and it is going to cost our city so much money that all the other city buildings, schools, firestations, and city hall, are going to fall into even more disrepair. There simply isn't enough money to build this building and keep up the other buildings as well, all of which are crumbling from a lack of care.

Because we cannot raise property taxes without a vote for an override, and because the last override almost tore apart the city, the Mayor has vowed to build the school without an override. That isn't going to happen. Now it has come to light that the site plan left out a large amount of cost details, and the $146 million now looks more like $151 million. This is way outside the realm of reality based funding. I don't know who is going to pay for it, but you can bet that seniors and the poor aren't going to be happy with any additional tax burden.

Well, what's done is done. We need to find a way to end the devisiveness and keep the city from becoming even more divided. I can't say I'm happy about the vote. It has nothing to do with our immediate schooling plans, since my kids go to another school, but the point is, it isn't fair for the kids currently enrolled at North to have to suffer through another year with the present school, but the new plans aren't going to be much better. Prettier, perhaps, but not a lot better.


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Blogger California Highway Guy - Daniel said...

Three words:
Belmont Learning Center.

I'm not sure if the Belmont fiasco has yours beat. They good they could have done in the LA Unifried District with the money they spent on that one campus. We've always been of the opinion they should have just moved the administrators there.

24/1/07 12:05 AM  

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