, Gloucester, MA

February 22, 2013

Letter: School building plans don't add up

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I went to Gloucester Public Schools from kindergarten through Grade 12.

There, I received educational lessons on how to think critically. I also received lessons in life about the importance of speaking up when you see an injustice unfolding or when things simply don’t add up. However, when those lessons are applied to the city’s plans (or lack thereof) for the buildings in which they were taught, the result is sadly ironic.

We have six elementary school buildings; five are old and lack room and resources. These are the ones in use. One elementary school, also old, has more than double the capacity of any of the other elementary schools (possibly triple for some) and unmatched extra-curricular resources. That one has been shuttered. That doesn’t add up.

All five active elementary schools are in need of renovation/replacement, but we lack funds to properly renovate or replace each.

One solution is to invest funds into renovating Fuller and consolidating several of the smaller schools for the most cost-savings. This option is not even on the table.

An impractical solution, on the other hand, is to replace only one school at a cost of $30 million, and let the other students/staff deal with old facilities and/or modular classrooms that need replacement before the city is even finished repaying the money borrowed to buy them.

Yet that is what we’re apparently going with. And that not only doesn’t add up but is tremendously unfair to the three-quarters of the elementary school population that suffers as a result.

City officials say people like me are mistaken — that Fuller is in bad shape. Yet last year’s re-use study commissioned by the city (no school option allowed) recommended it was better to repurpose Fuller than to tear it down because it was still so structurally sound. That doesn’t add up.

The city says that reuse of Fuller is not preferred because the city has opted for neighborhood a school system. Yet currently, neighboring children are bused all over the city to different schools (I believe Prospect Street alone is zoned for three different schools) and central Gloucester has no neighborhood school to call its own. That is somehow deemed acceptable.

West Parish students bused instead to Fuller could maintain the same neighborhood routes and add only three minutes of drive time from Exit 13 to Blackburn Circle. That is deemed too far to travel. That doesn’t add up.

I know a lot of citizens also went to Gloucester Public Schools and learned the same lessons in thinking critically and standing up for what’s right.

Hopefully, they will be provided the opportunity to put those lessons to work by being given the opportunity by the city to have their voices heard on this matter as well.