One of my main priorities is to get us to become more vigilant about improving the learning environment that our amazing educators and our equally amazing children gather to engage in the learning process. As a district, we need to commit to developing a plan to upgrade and regularly improve our schools. We still have no Facilities Development policy.
While we are beginning to talk about building a new school or significantly remodeling a school, it is imperative that we keep the costs and planning necessary to maintain that building and continue to improve all of the buildings our students spend most of their day in.
The COVID pandemic has increased our general awareness as to how important proper ventilation is to a healthy learning environment. Here’s the thing, even before COVID, that was the case. An increase in air exchanges per hour doesn’t just increase the safety metrics related to COVID, it increases our ability to contain other viral outbreaks, when combined with additional layers of safety precautions. While I could go on for hours talking about what we should have done, I’ll just distill my thoughts to one simple statement; we need to invest in the environments our children learn in, now. Deferred maintenance is only possible without a well thought out Facilities Development policy in place. Let’s be real here, Wildwood and Fort River shouldn’t have deteriorated at the rate they did. Poor planning, and deferred maintenance stemming from underfunding M&O were major contributing factors.
The open classroom concept went the way of the dinosaur before I entered kindergarten, in the 80’s. The closure of Mark’s Meadow and some redistricting caused my oldest son to have to move from Crocker Farm to Fort River. That bothered me on several levels, but it was the first open house we went to when he was there that I had issues with. His teacher, Mr. Lott, was super cool and his classroom was exactly the classroom Isaiah should have been in…except for one annoying thing. The entire time we were in his classroom, we could hear a lot of what was going on next door. Like, not enough to completely hear what people were saying but just enough to be distracted.
We can no longer afford (on many levels) to continue to ignore the tragic state of many of our school buildings and we need to exhibit a solid commitment to constantly improving our schools. We owe that to our dedicated educators and to our precious students as well as to the staff that support them. If there is anything I believe that we, as a school committee, need to advocate for it is advocacy of constantly improving the learning environment. COVID forced us to make some major changes and we can’t let the reactionary progress we have made be the end of our focus on the physical environment. A dedicated Facilities Development policy is still a major priority of mine and I hope to garner support for continuing to focus on the physical needs of our district