Friday, October 10, 2008

New School Project on Hold?

Ever since Natalie was in Kindergarten we have been hearing that they are going to be building a brand new K-8 school to replace some of the older schools in our town. My children go to school in a 95 year old brick school building. There is no handicap access in the school. The only bathrooms are on the basement floor. If any child breaks his leg then he has no way of getting down to the bathroom or lunch room in that school. Any child who lives in the area, but is handicapped has to be sent to a different school because they can't accommodate him there.

So four years ago I began hearing about this new school project and it would be done by the time Natalie started middle school and therefore she would basically remain in the same school until 8th grade. At first I wasn't too thrilled about the thought of a K-8 school, but then as I began to learn more I warmed up to the idea.

Now, here Natalie is in 4th grade and they don't even have a site for the new school. Every time they take two steps forward they then take two steps back. Last year the city council was trying to get them to use a location which would take 30 homes away from people! Thirty homes in our neighborhood. Thirty homes of the very same children who would be attending that school. Thankfully they finally saw the light and realized that was a very bad idea. Although, I think it was more because they realized it was a flood zone and part of the area was contaminated and clean up would be a pain.

So then they began focusing their energy on this sand pit. It seemed like the perfect location. However, the owners wanted more than twice what it was worth to sell. Then they discovered that the roads in the area couldn't handle all the added traffic of a 900 student school. So now it was time to scramble to find another property where really there is none. But a glimmer of hope. They found a property where they wouldn't have to take anyone's home and would be relatively easy to buy up. Everyone was for this site. It was looking like ground could be broken by 2010 and the new school open by 2012. Now granted the only one of my children who would ever attend this new school would be the baby, but hey it's progress.

But then the financial crisis came into play. The state was going to reimburse over 70% of this to the town, but now with the bank crisis this suddenly is looking like it's not going to happen. So now the city council doesn't want to put money out that might not be reimbursed to buy another property.

But you know what, all this time they've been arguing about where to put it there has been this perfect property right in the center of town already bought and ready to be built on by the city. The old "mall site" is just sitting there. Seventeen acres of land which is costing the city money on a daily basis. Seventeen acres of land which was supposed to be built up with businesses and stuff, but no one is interested in building there. So this eye sore just sits there unused while they fight over a school for our children. And there was an article in the paper today about it too.

So as a parent who has been hearing about this new school for the past 4 years I really want to know what is so important about building a business at this location? Why aren't our children coming first? If they don't have the money to make this school project happen then what are they going to do with that 95 year old school building which my children are attending? The one which a year ago this past spring had a foot of standing water in the library because of a bad rain storm? The one with the asphault playground which has torn up my children's knees and pants? The one without handicap access so when my daughter sprained her ankle last year I had to keep her out of school for a day because I didn't want her going up and down the stairs all day long on it? The one where in the dead of winter one classroom can be so hot they have to have the windows open to cool it down, but the classroom across the hall is so cold the children are all wearing their winter coats to do their work? I get they are all about the almighty dollar, but don't our children deserve more? Don't the children who managed to make safe harbor on the state testing for the past 3 out of 4 years deserve more? The children who attend this run down school where only 4 out of the 10 elementary schools here managed to have enough improvement on the mastery testing that they are no longer on the No Child Left Behind watch list. When are they going to get noticed and rewarded for their accomplishments? Why are our city leaders and officials so sure that the right thing for this city is a bunch of businesses which lets face it in this economy probably aren't too interested in starting up new in a state with such high taxes and cost of living? Our children are our future and therefore I do think a school would be just perfect and very useful at the old "mall site"!