My Turn: High school feasibility study prompts questions galore

Glenn Carstens-Peters/StockSnap

By ROBERT W. MACDONALD

Published: 03-29-2024 8:55 AM

The article “Committee explores new high school” in the March 23 edition of the Athol Daily News really triggered my Grumpy Gene.

First, it seems that $1.5 to $ 1.7 million is required for a “feasibility study” to deal with “the need to prevent overcrowding due to increased enrollment and to provide for a full range of programs consistent with state and local requirements.”

Overcrowding: The graduating class of 1960 was over 150 students. The class of 2023 was less than 80.  What is the capacity of existingstructure?  What is causing increased enrollment?  What is the projected enrollment that will meet the definition of overcrowding? And when will that occur?

If answers to those questions cannot be supported by a reasoned rough estimate, then the notion of “overcrowding” is little more than a sales pitch and should not be used to justify a $1.7 million “feasibility study.”

“Full range of programs”: What are these programs that are required and/or desired that are not being provided to students?  Why can’t they be incorporated into the existing structure?  How many additional teachers will be necessary?  What sort of teacher retraining will be required?

What are the various maintenance needs/projects required over the next 20 years on the existing structure.  Show the what/when/cost detail on the $70 million list of maintenance projects.  And if that maintenance is not carried out, will the building just fall into disrepair and become uninhabitable?

What is the detail associated with the “inadequate indoor environmental quality” of the existing structure?  What’s wrong with it?

What are the specific characteristics of the existing structure that prevent the accommodation of “a modern high school curriculum?”

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What are the specific characteristics of a new building that “offers potential for better-focused curricular offerings?”

It seems to me that all actions taken in the area of public education must be tied directly and indirectly to the overall objective of helping a child develop into a healthy, happy, productive adult in the world that will be.  If the existing physical structure obstructs that journey, then adapt or change we must.  But the decision needs to be fact-based and highly reasoned and $1.7 million seems to be an outsized tab for a proposal so apparently lacking in supportive detail. 

Robert W. MacDonald lives in Athol.