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Opposing Viewpoints: North is an unnecessary burden

Posted By Alexandra Fen On June 10, 2010 @ 4:08 am In Editorials and Opinions | Comments Disabled

The North controversy plagued Newton for years. It has managed to pit neighbor against neighbor and compromise the quality of education for future Newton Public School students.

As a South student writing on this subject, it is not simply out of jealousy–the fact that my high school is no longer the superior one–that I write this article (because everybody knows what really matters is sports and average SAT scores).

Looking back, I realize that the construction of a new high school was completely appropriate; however, the large-scale project and its outrageous price tag was not at all rationalized by necessity.

The old North building is a hulking brick-red monster protruding from serene Newtonville that agitates students and neighbors alike. But the biggest concerns are found in the interior of the building. Complaints of mice and an omnipresent stench had become characteristics embraced by students of the school. But the number one biggest complaint was the lack of windows around the school. The minimal exposure to the outside world and poor circulation that resulted interfered with an effective learning environment.

But the construction project, which had estimated to cost approximately $197.5 million, had more than exceeded expectations. The blueprints addressed primary concerns and went above and well beyond, and not in a good way.

Since its inception, the school’s construction project has tripled its estimated cost. The seemingly small request for a brighter interior ended up dictating the design of the new school. Multi-paneled, multi-storied glass windows coupled with a zigzag design that supplements efforts to access natural light inflated construction costs.

But the construction of a new high school was definitely in order. A major renovation would be impractical as it would displace students from parts of the building during the construction process and likely still leave many of the issues unsolved.

Regardless, the new school will offer students unnecessary luxuries–enough to make it the most expensive school in Massachusetts’ history.  

Is it that there is some sense of entitlement among Newton Public Schools’ parents and education board members that provides a rationale behind the scale of this project?

The public school system here in Newton is the primary factor driving families to move into the city. Newton has been nationally recognized, year after year, for the academic excellence of its public schools.

Or was the new North building intended to become a monument to out city’s academic achievement?  

The new building’s toll on Newton’s operating budget is already clear and ballooning fast. Paying off North is soon to account for the majority of Newton’s debt and when public buildings, say, other educational buildings inevitably fall unto disrepair, there will be a lack of funds to go towards upkeep and repair.

Should educational buildings deteriorate (as they have been for years) and future tax overrides fail, the schools will be left to cut back on staff.
And therein lies the irony of it all.

We have used numerous justifications pertaining to giving students “quality educations in order to rationalize the scale of the North project.  But what we fail to see is that the extravagance of the school will inflict severe burdens upon the school system rather than facilitate a better education for all students.

But everything is said and (almost) done. Now the City of Newton should set its sights on recovery: which is that this project, at all costs, will never interfere with the school’s learning environment.

After all, it isn’t the size of the windows or the message the building sends to visitors, but what’s on the inside that matters.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/opposing-viewpoints-north-is-an-unnecessary-burden/

URLs in this post:

[1] North breaks ground: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/09/23/north-breaks-ground/

[2] North-South Inequity: State’s most expensive school opens: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/north-south-inequity-states-most-expensive-school-opens/

[3] City slashes $7 mil from North costs: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/03/19/city-slashes-7-mil-from-north-costs/

[4] Opposing Viewpoints: North benefits the city: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/opposing-viewpoints-north-benefits-the-city/

[5] What are our priorities?: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/12/19/what-are-our-priorities/

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