So, Just When Are We Going To Get A New School Building?
Look, I was gladly first in line to shake hands with the architects, engineers, project managers, and contractors who worked so hard to complete the building which we now all proudly share. Certainly, there have been some problems and set-backs, but those are entirely unavoidable in any construction of such magnitude and complexity. Overall, we should recognize without hesitation how far-preferable this building is to the one we departed from and how much we owe to everyone who played a role in its realization. But in the same way we left that old school and looked forward to the new, we need to maintain our focus on the future. Let’s be clear, the building we’re in now isn’t brand new like it was a year ago. The designs, structures, and technologies of 2013 are unlikely to meet the demanding brave new world of 2014 and getting stuck in that past is not going to produce the type of student we need in the present. So while some may consider this a little premature, I do feel obligated to start what I hope will be a meaningful dialogue for all by raising the following question: So, just when are we going to get a new school building?
To be honest, the idea hadn’t entered my mind in any significant way until I had a recent conversation with a friend who teaches at Phillips Academy, Andover. He was invited-to and attended the opening ceremony last year and was kind enough to praise highly both the event and the building it showcased. However, last weekend when he telephoned to ask on what date he should arrive this year for the dedication, my admission was both awkward and embarrassing. “Well,” I said, “I’m afraid we’re not actually having one. There must have been some serious bureaucratic mishandlings because apparently we’re using the same building we did last year.” There was a pained silence between us for some time before I managed to shake myself from the disabling trance of disgrace and abruptly change the conversation to comparing AP scores.
Again, don’t let me be mistaken. The building we’re in is great. But anyone who recognizes the constant acceleration of our modern world can tell you that to not move forward is to be left behind. Even as I’m typing this now, with my DViT Smart Board 800 in the periphery, it’s hard not to wonder how much nicer it would be to have the just-released 900 model. More than once, I’ve reached down to grab a third stylus and punch the color to purple when I realized I could do neither on the 800 board I’m stuck with (though both options are standard for the 900 and 900 Supra models). Sure, some may say that I’m asking for too much, but in those moments when the educational process is severely bounded by resources available, it’s hard not to simply close my eyes and grit my teeth in frustration.
We should consider as well the disadvantages to which our students are tethered when schools of the surrounding communities move ahead while we remain locked in our own structural stasis. It concerns me to hear that Northampton is considering renovations which would put two coffee bars in their library, four dedicated e-readers in each custodial closet, and a waterless water fountain in every hallway. Amherst will no doubt follow suit and, while some in Longmeadow won’t mind having the second or third most innovative school in Western Massachusetts, I have little patience with such defeatists and strongly suggest they pull up their stakes and move to some backwater district still using non-biodegradable I-beams and pencils without WiFi capacity.
In the end, cliché though it may be, we cannot put too high a price on the education of the next generation. Setting aside all our petty differences on tax rates and dollar signs, we must recognize that they are the future in which we invest and entrust. Therefore, in consenting to this wisdom and a vision that is both profound and far-reaching, let us pull together as a community, collect our resources, strengthen our resolve, and work together to begin plans for a brand new building that will again lift us up above our peers and last us well through the next one or two school years.