Sunday, April 11, 2010

Parent to Parent

As a parent of only elementary school-aged children until recently, the high school project was sort of “off my radar”. I assumed that the project was moving forward and that it really was not a concern because my kids were so young. Surely things would be taken care of before my kids ever set foot into the high school…or so I thought. Now that I have a child in middle school time seems to be moving VERY quickly. I am realizing that before I know it my middle schooler will be in high school, and my 2nd grader will be there in a mere seven years. Seven years might seem like a long time. However, records show the discussion about a renovation goes back about 14 years – and still no renovation!! Even as it stands now, if there were to be no further delays and ground is broken this summer, the project would still take at least 3 years to complete. The problem is that there continue to be delays and it is looking less and less likely that we will even settle on a time to break ground. Completion in three years from now is looking very doubtful. So how many years will it be? Will my 2nd grader see a new high school? Will yours? I don’t know.

Over the past couple of years, I have been following the process carefully. When we first moved here I wasn’t really aware of the physical condition of the high school. When I took a tour, however, I was shocked….the walls are literally crumbling, there is peeling lead paint throughout much of it, asbestos EVERYWHERE – which is especially troubling since the heating and water systems are in total disrepair – causing pipes that are wrapped in that asbestos to leak, etc.. I have been told by students and parents of massive floods where hallways and lockers are filled with standing water. I was also told of a leak problem in a room where there were exposed pipes dripping onto the floor – those pipes had a sign attached to them saying “asbestos – DO NOT TOUCH” – I wonder what happens to asbestos when it gets wet….I have also been told that there have been small fires in certain classrooms that have faulty and old electrical wiring. The clincher for me is that because the building was constructed in many stages over many years, the safety codes for each vintage building are only held to the standard of code that was intact when that building was put up. For example, the oldest part of the building was constructed in the 1920’s! The safety codes for that building are only held to the codes from the 1920’s!!!! That’s why most of the entire building has no sprinkler system, for example. This is fact! I have spoken with the Allegheny Health Dept. and the local Fire Dept. about this directly.

I feel strongly that our children and our community deserve and NEED this renovation. It is long past due. I also realize that there are people who are concerned about rising taxes, etc. It is a reality that taxes will increase. However, there has been a lot of misinformation circulating around town about just how much the taxes will increase. Some say 50% increases. That is simply not true. The board president and the District’s financial expert have confirmed this. Please know that there are people out there who are putting out misinformation because they are against the project. Their hope is to derail it completely. Please also know that many of those people either don’t have kids, kids out of school, or have kids who attend private schools…so why should they have to pay for improved education for our kids? I’ll tell you why – because it doesn’t just help our kids – it helps our community – it helps to maintain and improve the values of ALL our homes – in helps to encourage people to move here and keep our economy strong. Education is our community’s biggest asset and draw – in my opinion, without this renovation, we are risking not only our kids’ educations but also our community’s reputation. Poor reputations don’t encourage people to move here…I know I moved here for the schools and I certainly would not have moved here if the reputation was not excellent.

I encourage everyone to get involved and support this very important project. On Monday, April 12 at 7:30 there will be a School Board meeting at the high school (with an architect’s update at 7PM). Now, more than ever, the board needs a show of support for all of the work that has been put into this project. This project has been carefully planned over many years, and it must move forward in my opinion. I hope you agree. If so, please try to attend the meeting on April 12. Additionally, if you are interested in getting more information go the district website (http://www.mtlsd.org/) and view the FAQ’s about the project. Thanks for listening.