Build It. But Will They Come?

Our school district has been hinting around for a new high school for quite some time. I get it. The school is 56 years old, supposedly has a leaky roof, leaky ceilings, a poor heating system, asbestos (why you would let anyone in a building with asbestos is beyond me)., etc.

The entire cost for their project, as of right now anyway, is over 111.5 million dollars. Apparently they don’t remember the Big Dig. Now from what I understand in 2017 the school district had a chance to fix their accreditation probation by using the Massachusetts School Building Authority accelerated repair program for roofs, windows, doors, etc. You know, standard renovations. But they didn’t. They held off in the hopes of getting an entirely new school. Now they’re talking about this “grant” they’d be getting from MSBA in the amount of $46,820,302, leaving the two towns that the school serves to foot the rest of the bill. And the amounts the towns would foot are lopsided. The smaller of the towns would foot 17.75% or $664,121 and the other town would foot 82.25% or $3,077,404.

These figures would affect all taxpayers in both towns, whether you have a student in the district or not. The district’s communication about this project has been poor, starting with a “survey” sent to student’s families via Gmail after the 2020-2021 school year. I still wonder how many people completed that survey. The only mailed communication we have received was a postcard reminding us of the special meetings on September 13 and 14 and then the vote on October 4. Of course they never took into consideration the case of someone not being able to attend the meeting in person due to getting Covid or another factor. In fact, as far as I know no virtual option was offered.

I know there are older people in both towns who have no knowledge of this project. As was discovered when discussing it recently with an elderly acquaintance who lives on my street. She’s owned her home longer than the school has been around and doesn’t feel like having her taxes increased over $600.00 a year.

Of course the figures that were thrown at us on their website are figures drawn up pre-inflation. I don’t think they are taking into consideration the rising cost of supplies, the ability to get the supplies, labor costs, unforeseen problems, etc. They determine this project will be done by 2026. Again, they should remember the Big Dig.

The pro-school people have thrown everything at the wall to make it stick. Well, just about everything. Mainly using a new school as a bait to attract home buyers to the area and a new school to attract potential students. Well, first of all, you need affordable homes to buy in order to attract home buyers. And although your video shows all kinds of cool stuff students may enjoy, interestingly enough it doesn’t mention any improvements to the curriculum or teachers. You can have a big fancy new school. But without a better curriculum and knowledgeable, dependable teachers to teach it, what’s the point? One of their main concerns is making sure there is a space for the preschoolers. Yes, they intend to have preschoolers at the high school. Because of the “vocational” Early Education program they have. Which is a joke. And which, I understand, many parents of children who are or will be of preschool age, do not want.

To use an analogy: if you are a homeowner and want to improve your home, you do renovations, you don’t tear down your house. In reviewing the district’s website about this project, their “renovation/add-on” plan really doesn’t explain much. It doesn’t exactly clarify what is going to be torn down, what is going to be added on, etc. And I can only imagine the disruptions to students attending the school during that time.

At the special town meetings this past week, the votes passed to send the voting to an election vote on October 4. But not everyone’s vote was cast because as I said, they made no efforts or put any thoughts into considering people who may not be able to be physically present. And if you can’t be physically present on October 4 your vote won’t be cast either.

How is it fair that as a taxpayer, if I don’t have a chance to vote for something, I should have to pay for it? I shouldn’t.

And if it gets passed and built, in another 50 years people can start bitching about the age of the school all over again.

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I'm a writer. I'm also a wife and a parent who works too much and lives too little. In addition to writing I also love to read, listen to music, travel, cook, I enjoy looking for bargains at flea markets or thrift stores, Christmas, football and of course writing! How did I come up with the title of my blog? Two things: 1. I live in New England (duh) and 2. Canadian singer Alan Frew once arrogantly told me to "get a New England life"--again--DUH! I already HAVE one!