Letter to the editor: ACSD used ‘scare tactic’ at facilities meeting
I attended the Jan. 27 ACSD Facilities Master Plan meeting at the MUHS auditorium. I was truly disappointed with the turnout. I expected the room to be standing room only with concerned taxpayers from the seven affected communities. If there was 30-40% occupancy, I would be surprised.
As I expected, the presentation was mostly a scare tactic. Our student population is declining. This is the taxpayers’ fault? Do not blame the Vermont Legislature and local officials who blatantly discourage any commercial or business growth in the state, which would encourage our young people to seek jobs in Vermont and raise their children here.
Per-pupil education costs are increasing because of that. Again, this is the taxpayers’ fault? Do not blame the Vermont Legislature for coming up with insane formulas for schools to follow. Do not blame school boards for bowing to ever-increasing demands by unions.
By their own admission, the ACSD board stated that they had, in the past, focused on pay and benefits over facilities for years.
They then had engineers review each school and list all the deficiencies and needs. In the final total, it will take $17+ million to just repair and bring the seven schools up to current codes and standards. And those costs do not include things such as known hazardous materials removal, permitting, environmental issues, fees, etc. And more scare … waiting to do these “repairs” will only see the costs increase by huge sums for each year we put this off.
They truly danced around the elephant in the room. These are all the repairs that the school board has ignored for, in some cases, 25-50 years.
The Americans with Disabilities Act came about 1990. That means the school board has ignored and avoided ADA compliance for 30 years! But now, today, we must meet it?
Cracked and heaving concrete? Failing brick and mortar? Leaking roofs? Poor insulation? Poor windows? Poor heating, ventilating, cooling? Fresh water supplies? Poor sewage? Poor land drainage?
Really folks, this did not happen overnight. The two older schools, Shoreham and Mary Hogan, were built around 1954. The newest school, Salisbury, was built in 1996! The costs to repair the deficiencies at Shoreham and Salisbury school are not that far apart!
So, back to last Monday night’s meeting. The engineers presented their utopia school where each student would be allocated 50 square feet in each room. Thus classrooms, for 22 students, would be as much as 1,100 square feet. Add to that the area needed for all the ancillary rooms (principal office, outer office, reception, nurse, SPED, OT/PT, art, music, reading, foreign language, book storage, utility, staff room, break room, cafeteria, multipurpose, library, etc., etc.). Their formula then multiplies all that area by 1.4 for hallways and other space to get this huge building to over 20,000 square feet.
So, after scaring everyone with this huge repair bill to just bring the current schools “up to current code” with no increase in space or facilities, they indicate that they can build a new utopia school, which would service 150 students. (Hint: Read another way this means close one school and combine two schools). This utopia school building they estimate to cost only a mere $10 million. That is of course before hidden costs and forgotten needs.
They also displayed several colorful charts and graphs, all neatly displaying and comparing all the deficiencies between the seven schools. They showed maps with travel times from each town in the ACSD district to Middlebury. So do you get the drift? They try to scare us into closing schools rather than doing repairs that should have been done all along. This all suggests they want to build a new school. (Possibly more than one?) With unmentioned added costs to bus kids to the new school(s).
One presenter made the analogy: if you are a homeowner, you have basic repairs and maintenance that you need to constantly do or your house will deteriorate. Would you wait to replace the burnt out light bulb or a beeping smoke detector until the roof had caved in or the foundation crumbled? Within ACSD this seems to be the case, as common deficiencies among all the schools reviewed were ADA compliance, poor lighting, poor ventilation, inadequate emergency detection devices and warning systems. Where was the school board in making these same decisions?
But remember, the school board has an ingrained mentality to take care of teachers first. They have avoided making even the slightest maintenance or upgrade a priority. So in 25 years any new school will most likely be in the same boat as the 25-year-old Salisbury school.
Do not get me wrong. I have no aversion to new buildings. What truly scares me are all the new ancillary rooms, listed above, that each new utopia school needs. Unless they are “manned” and have needed heating/cooling/ventilation, they are totally useless. So along with a potential multi-million-dollar bond for new school(s), there will also come the added energy costs and the “manpower” issue to man those rooms. And with today’s current mentality, all that manpower, including the janitor, will “need an aide” to help them get through the day. This manpower is more expensive than the buildings themselves, and unlike the buildings, that manpower has a union and union demands.
Am I scared? That would be an understatement!
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