Why Should We Invest $17M in Soule, Fisk and Haigh Schools?

We need to address our real student educational and safety needs.

Disclaimer: My opinion only, not necessarily anyone else’s.

It’s important to remember, as we approach the February deliberative session and the March vote, why we’re doing elementary school renovations and upgrades. We need to improve the safety and security of our schools and maintain our buildings. We need permanent space for state required kindergarten and appropriate permanent space for student special services. We need to stop teaching in portable classrooms, closets, stairwells, bus ports and hallways.

Fisk and Soule schools do not have permanent kindergarten space. We have to spend $40,000 per year just to rent portables at Soule and Fisk to get that space. That cost doesn’t include lighting and heating and it’s easy to believe we’re spending too much money on heating energy-inefficient structures.

Because there’s no dedicated space at Soule and Fisk for individualized reading instruction, physical therapy, occupational therapy or student special services, like there is at North Salem, Lancaster and Barron, we’re still trying to teach in portables, closets, hallways and stairwells. There are no dedicated multi-purpose rooms so we’re still using cafegymatoriums; no adequate nurse’s rooms; no fire sprinklers and no new improved security entrances. We need to address our real student educational and safety needs.

Based on the current enrollment projections, Haigh School will continue to be an active school with students in attendance for the next few years. While a multi-million dollar renovation might not be appropriate at this time, the students and staff at Haigh deserve a sound, safe and secure building too. The building needs a sound roof, a fire sprinkler system and an upgraded fire alarm system. The students need good lighting, good heating and air circulation and better security. In fact, any future occupants, whether they are students and staff or rent-paying tenants, will need these upgrades. Most of these upgrades would be needed to keep even an unoccupied building in sound and safe condition.

We can renovate the Fisk and Soule Schools and upgrade Haigh School using bonds totaling approximately $17 million. The maximum tax impact, on a $300,000 house, is just over $100 per year in the highest year. The amount decreases every year after that. Less than $10 per month is a reasonable price to pay to get permanent space for state required kindergarten, appropriate permanent space for student special services, new multi-purpose rooms, new entrances, new adequate nurse’s rooms, upgraded plumbing, electrical, heating/ventilating and safety systems.

It’s true that just making buildings “nicer” won’t guarantee a better education. But we’re not just making these buildings “nicer”; we’re adding new educational spaces for kindergarten and student special services and we’re making them safer. These renovations can make a better education easier to achieve. We’ve heard from parents and staff at Lancaster, North Salem and Barron that renovations there improved educational outcomes, especially for students who require special services. These proposed renovations can help make a better education easier to achieve at our other three elementary schools. Shouldn’t we help make a successful outcome easier to achieve?

The March school warrant will have two articles to vote on in order to provide the funding for these renovations and upgrades. Article 2 will be for just over $16.2 million and Article 3 will add just over another $805 thousand to give a total of just over $17 million worth of necessary improvements to our buildings.

It is a testimony to the soundness of this plan that the Budget Committee recommended both articles. Join me in voting “Yes” on Article 2 and 3 because these renovations will make a successful outcome for our students easier to achieve.

Send comments or questions directly to me at pmorgan@sau57.org

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