By Chris and Chom Greacen
Special to the Weekly
Having carefully considered the facts and differing opinions regarding the upcoming school bond, we believe that the revised bond deserves our support. The fact that we do not have a perfect school or management cannot be used as a justification for holding Lopez children hostage and voting down the revised bond. Here is why.
The Lopez school infrastructure is in varying states of failure. The school’s facilities range in age from 20 to 65 years. The septic system is failing and needs to be upgraded to function properly. Right now lunch plates must be individually wiped with paper towels so as to not clog the antiquated system.
The plumbing system is also failing with a number of pipe burstings occurring. The elementary school flat roof is well beyond its designed life, has structural issues, leaks and needs to be replaced.
The lack of fire sprinklers in the gym, shop and science rooms limits the educational activities that the fire marshal will permit in those areas. The fire alarm system misfires and disrupts the school with false alarms.
Half the heating system needs replacement, and so does the building envelope, including ancient single-paned windows. The failed heating system this winter caused tiles to peel loose, leaving two classrooms with plywood subflooring.
Further delays in renovating the school would risk bigger, more expensive failures, and disruptions.
As a result of these and other circumstances, the school’s maintenance and utilities cost is 15 percent of the annual general budget, the highest among its peers in the state. Just getting to the average cost of our peer districts would free up over $200,000 a year of maintenance cost to be invested in our children’s education.
The revised bond brings school facilities to current standards and extends the life of our buildings for 20 plus years. With the failure of the previous proposal, the school board responded to the community’s wish by downsizing the project 40 percent, eliminating building expansion and non-essential items, and focusing instead on extending life and making the most out of the existing footprint.
Lopez has never done a campus-wide renovation of its facility. Historically it has used a piecemeal approach, addressing problems as they arise. While this makes sense when repairs are small, in its current state piecemeal bandaging will likely end up costing more than fixing all these issues in an integrated fashion.
As parents and taxpayers, we are vigilant and share the desire to improve our school. The issues of costs, management and academic performance warrant ongoing conversations, deeper exploration and collaborative action. But holding the school and children hostage until we have a perfect school would be very damaging to the school, quality of education and Lopez children.
Approving the bond, along with continued community vigilance and engagement, is thus a necessary step towards the desired vision of a healthy school, empowered youth and thriving community.