Many officials and residents may remember those grim days last January when the West Parish elementary School heating system failed in several classrooms, leading teachers to conduct classes on, among other places, the stage of the crammed school's auditorium.
And no one should be surprised that the school's roof leaks, given that the West parish roof was the only one elementary school left out of last summer's multi-million-dollar roofing project, which shored up the tops of the other elementaries and O'Maley Middle School as well.
But if city school officials are hoping that West Parish's condition will reach the point that taxpayers have no choice but to build a new school on the suite, they had better think again — and give a lot higher priority to student and staff safety.
For the conditions described in Thursday's well-written and powerful letter from teacher Cynthia McNamara (the Times, July 5) are accurate — and her letter merely raised issues that have quietly mouthed by parents and staffers in the past — city and school had better prepare to shift West Parish's students to another location at the star or in the early stages of the current school year as well. For the conditions described by McNamara do comprise a poor learning environment for students of an age group. And the presence of mold in the building — let alone its utility perils — could be seen as posing a legitimate health hazard to anyone working within its walls.
The idea of moving West Parish's students to the Fuller School building — the only logical place, given its capacity and West Parish's 380-student enrollment, the most of any of the city's elementary schools — is not one that city officials may want to explore. That's because they'd rather not carry out the kinds of repairs that would allow its renewed use as a school, lest more residents see that as an consolidation alternative to a new school — which it very well may be.
But leaving students, teachers and other staffers in the current West Parish facility is no longer a viable option either, even for another year.
Student safety has to come before educational politics. It's time to get this necessary move in motion — now.