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The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to the Gloucester Daily Times, a slightly edited version of which appeared in the print edition on May 22, 2012:
I first would like to thank the Mayor and the Chairman of the School Committee for their recent letters to the GDT addressing the West Parish project. The more information that is made readily available and the more thorough an explanation provided to the residents of Gloucester, the better off everyone is.
However, as a former student of the City’s schools, with relatives currently enrolled in the City’s schools, and who would like to someday be able to send any future children I might have to the City’s schools, I feel that there are still many important but unanswered questions.
Chairman Pope noted that this West Parish project, although won’t fix all of the issues surrounding the City’s school buildings, is the first step in bringing Gloucester Public Schools “into the 21st century.” Okay. What is the next step? And what is the step after that? Calling it a “first step” suggests there’s a complete plan—that’s great—what is it?
My understanding is that all of the elementary schools are old. I would guess that West Parish’s inability to meet the “spatial demand” of 21st century education is not unlike spatial conditions at East Gloucester, Beeman, Plum Cove, and Veterans (although maybe not Fuller, given its size). However the Mayor points out that the idea of closing neighborhood schools was “soundly rejected by the parent community.” Last I checked: citizens, parent and non-parent alike, were soundly against the closing of neighborhood fire stations too and yet they remain closed. But I’ve digressed.
So our plan is for 5 elementary schools, with West Parish, to the tune of $30-$40mil (with a potential for a rebate), being welcomed into the “21st century” first. When, then, do the East Gloucester, Central Gloucester, and Northern Gloucester students get to join us? We’re already 10+ years into the century as it is. Will they all need the same investment to be brought up to modern standards? If so, do we do one school at a time, every 5-7 years? That at least gets all elementary students into the 21st century before it’s half-over for somewhere around $200mil. And while we’re planning—what about O’Maley? By the time we finished with the elementary schools, O’Maley would be as old as West Parish is today.
Admittedly, that’s a lot of questions. And I’m sure I (and other citizens) have plenty more. Fortunately for everyone involved, the easiest way to answer most all of them: show us the plan. The plan that outlines how every student will be afforded the same educational upgrades currently slated for West Parish. The plan establishing the timeline in which projects are started, finished, responsibly borrowed and paid for, etc. The plan that explains how these school improvements interlink with the City’s overall financial plan for the future. My hope is that City would have already developed such a comprehensive plan before it would ever pay $500k for a study regarding the feasibility of a $30-40mil investment referred to as only the “first step.”