About 60 people attended Tuesday’s public forum on the Gerry/Coffin/Bell School Building Committee update, which isn’t terribly bad. However, after listening to speakers who regularly attend the building committee’s regular meetings, one might have anticipated a packed house. The repeated hue and cry has been that parents don’t know what is happening with their students or their school and they don’t understand the process.
Well, shame on them.
Gerry School Building Committee Chairman David Harris laid it all out in an easy to understand Power Point presentation and spent another hour and a half taking questions, along with other project officials including Superintendent Maryann Perry and architect Gene Raymond. The presentation will be made public when a new website devoted to project updates goes live next week.
The sum of nearly two years of work is that the committee has narrowed its choice for a new school from six possibilities to two and will spend the next 3.5 weeks knocking one of those off the table.
If you want to see what goes into that decision, show up.
Parent Kim Day is right when she says the committee needs to bring voters along on this ride to a new school, but voters need to be willing to take the ride. Day, along with an average of a dozen other parents, some OK with the process and some still fighting to save the Gerry, have faithfully attended meetings and made their voices heard and kudos to them for joining the process.
If there are parents on the elementary level that are still unaware of what’s going on, then they aren’t paying attention.
The two sites still in the running are the Bell School and Bud Orne Playground. It was stated recently that some residents might not have voted in favor of a Gerry/Coffin School feasibility study had they known neither the Gerry or Coffin properties would be home to a new school.
The feasibility study is to determine the best option for a new Gerry/Coffin School. It was never limited to building a new school on one or the other sites. Once the state determined that the Bell School should be added to the mix, parents should have realized there was a chance neither property would be considered. The committee decided the properties were too small for a 450-student school and the idea of building a 160-student school was taken off the table.
That has been a hard pill for some parents to swallow, but quite frankly, parents need to stop choosing quaint over quality when it comes to their children’s education. Being able to walk to school is nice. Having spacious classrooms, bathrooms not in the basement, up-to-date technology and a staff all under one roof is better. And two of the town's elementary school principals, one being the principal of the Gerry/Coffin, have told the committee that on more than one occasion.
They are the professionals. That should be all the convincing anyone needs.
It is a shame the historic district will be losing a school. But perhaps parents should start thinking about what the building could house if not a school, maybe an after school center, another community center or simply open space—and start lobbying for that.