Statement to School Building Committee by M. Kopicki
February 2, 2016
I remain solidly opposed the grade reconfiguration that the administration proposes and the school committee voted for. In this, there is no surprise.
The MSBA’s response to the PDP clearly echoed many of the concerns that several of us in the community have brought up before. An example would be the claim of a mold problem in the schools that, according to the document you yourselves have provided, was remediated in 2005 with no further action needed. The only evidence of testing presented since then on any of the 3 elementary school buildings was the hazardous materials analysis of Wildwood that was required as part of this feasibility, and which demonstrated no problem. The administration has declined to authorize a similar analysis of Fort River, stating that it is not required for the MSBA project, and so you really have no scientific evidence as to the air quality issues there. Indeed, I would argue, as I have already, that an air quality study of Fort River should be performed now, regardless of this project, so that if there is, in fact, a health/safety problem it can be addressed immediately and not on the timeframe of this project. If there is no demonstrable mold problem, on the other hand, the people who use this facility on a daily basis can have some peace of mind.
The MSBA also astutely wonders why, if the physical problems of Fort River are so intolerable, did the district not prioritize this building over Wildwood. Instead, an October 2014 decision by the school building committee specifically chose Wildwood over Fort River for admission into this process. Another salient point made by the MSBA is that the twin configurations, put forward by the administration as a way to allay trepidation about these large schools, significantly diminishes the economies of scale that were so central to the financial argument for consolidation.
There are numerous other issues raised by the MSBA that warrant deeper consideration on the part of this committee. One that is particularly relevant to the document you are about to vote on is the lack of inclusion of the educator and parent survey results that demonstrated a clear preference for maintaining the K-6 structure of our elementary school system, rather than the proposed grade reconfiguration. While listing meeting dates and inclusion of minutes may meet the minimum requirements of the guidelines, it clearly does not satisfy the intent. That is, for the MSBA to understand the degree of local support that this project enjoys. In order to even decipher that a survey was conducted, one must dig through the committee meeting minutes and even then, it is merely stated that a survey took place but no effort is made to disseminate the results. Omitting the survey results and comments is either a gross oversight or an attempt to obfuscate the level of opposition to this plan. This information is a matter of public record and its absence from this process will not stand.
I urge you to withhold your approval of the Preferred Schematic Report and reconsider your role in forwarding a plan that is deeply divisive and lacks the support it requires to come to fruition.