Letter, Opinion

We need a new high school

Dear Editor,

I realize there has been a flurry of communications regarding the state of the Woodstock Union Middle and High School. Having just attended the last tour, I feel compelled to add my voice to the conversation, as a parent, tax payer, and former school board member.

It is my understanding that there will be more tours offered in the new year. My first main point is to strongly encourage everyone who lives in the district to attend. It is one thing to drive by or even walk into the lobby and get one impression of the building; it is quite another to really “look under the hood” and learn about the internal systems. A good analogy might be house hunting and the difference between looking at a building from the street versus having an inspection done. Even having served on the board and read the reports about the building’s deficiencies, it was truly eye opening to see the conditions in person and hear more details from people with intimate knowledge. We should all be familiar with the current state of this community asset, and with the issues of a building that we are collectively responsible for maintaining.

My second point is that we have a problem that requires responsiveness and a sense of urgency. We have issues related to air flow and air quality, poor temperature control, excessive noise and other environmental conditions that likely impact student functioning and performance. We have very old and dated systems for which we can no longer find replacement parts. We have a sewer system becoming less and less viable. We are lacking in ADA compliance and modern security. We are hemorrhaging money through energy inefficiencies. I shudder to think of the cost and management challenge in the likely event of a serious malfunction. Furthermore, we know that the current building structure and layout present significant limitations in terms of a 21st century learning environment.

Now that we know the range and scope of the problem, it feels irresponsible not to act with focus and tenacity. I know that the board and some community members have been hard at work wrestling with the complexities and developing a vision and strategy for a new build. I encourage all citizens to become involved, to learn more, and to provide input into what a building that truly reflects our values would look like.

We talk a lot about sustainability, about attracting and retaining young families, and about the economic viability of our district’s future; the pressing challenge of our middle and high school building is a critical part of that conversation and visioning. And it goes without saying that we have a duty to care for our young people right now, to protect their health and well being and to promote their educational success. If you have any doubts about how the current building is shortchanging them, I refer you to my first point: please take a tour and imagine spending most of your waking hours in that space.

Sincerely,

Jessica Stout, Woodstock

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