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North-South Inequity: State’s most expensive school opens

Posted By Dan Agarkov On September 30, 2010 @ 7:01 am In News | Comments Disabled

After three years of construction and a $197 million budget, the new Newton North building opened on August 31 with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
The new 413,000 square-foot building features an auditorium that houses 800 people and a 25-yard long swimming pool, replacing a 37-year-old outdated building with few windows and poor ventilation. The initial project was approved as a $40 million renovation of the old building, but officials determined that a new school would be the only safe option due to construction logistics and interference with the academic schedule.
The high cost of North’s construction has prompted some in the South community to raise questions of equity between the schools. Former PTSO president Liz Richardson has led several parents and administrators in a committee to address the funding that South receives for renovation and new technology.
“It’s really not a competition between the two [schools], Richardson said. “It’s just to make sure that students in both schools receive a similar experience.
The group brought their concerns to the School Committee, which awarded South $220,000 over the summer for new technological equipment. This money was used for several new computer labs and laptop carts.
In addition, some minor renovation projects received funding, such as the replacement of woodworking equipment, a new electronic rigging system in the theater, new photography equipment, and a deeper orchestra pit.
According to Richardson, the group is still putting together a list of more potential improvements like exterior lighting for safety issues.
“We really want to do this in a positive and respectful way and to work together as two high schools, Richardson said.
Furthermore, the principals are working to make sure that educational programming is similar. They are readjusting the full-time equivalent teacher positions to ensure that neither school receives a significant educational advantage.
Principal Joel Stembridge believes that although South’s facilities are much older than North’s, South still offers its students a wide range of resources and opportunities.
“I feel that our facility is really a great learning environment and that we don’t necessarily need any [new additions], he said, adding jokingly that “it would be nice though to have an Olympic size pool or hockey rink.
Assistant Principal Mary Scott has played a large role in the discussion about equity. Though she has fought for more funding for South, Scott believes that the new North facilities were worth their high costs.
“[The new building] is well constructed, Scott said, “so in the end we will get our money’s worth.
Most North students have received the new building positively, as well. To many, the abundance of windows and natural light are important new features. North senior Hannah Schon thinks that the increased number of windows makes the new school more conducive to learning than the old.
“I feel smarter in it, Schon said. “The old North was just dirty and less friendly.
North senior Sam Melnick agrees that the old building’s lack of natural light was its main inadequacy.
“It felt like a dungeon in the old school sometimes, he said. “It’s a lot easier to get around [the new building] because it is a lot more straightforward.
The new building, however, not without its shortcomings, may take some getting used to. Some students have expressed concern that the cafeteria is too small; another common concern is that the building lacks its own identity.
“I don’t know where everything is and where everyone is hanging out, Schon said. “It’s frustrating because it’s more difficult to see your friends.
For some seniors, the new building will add special meaning to their last year at North.
“To have this little bonus in our senior year is a positive thing, and it’s going to motivate a lot of students to work really hard in their last year, Melnick said.
Though certain areas of South could use renovation as well, Stembridge mentioned that South’s focus is mainly on upgrading technology and equipment, not on physical improvement.
“South is not next on the [city's] list in terms of facility needs. Lots of middle and elementary schools have needs that the city is having difficulty meeting because of North’s high cost, he said.
South benefits, however, from North’s improved facilities because certain classes, such as automotive technology, are available to students throughout the city. Unlike South, North has a built in garage where students learn about automotive engineering. It is a logistically challenging endeavor, though involving busing to North in the morning and then back to South, but students who are interested in the automotive career path are encouraged to join.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/north-south-inequity-states-most-expensive-school-opens/

URLs in this post:

[1] Opposing Viewpoints: North is an unnecessary burden: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/opposing-viewpoints-north-is-an-unnecessary-burden/

[2] Three years, $197 million later: Newton North opens doors: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/three-years-197-million-later-newton-north-opens-doors/

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

[4] North seniors face trouble adapting to a school without Main Street: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/north-seniors-face-trouble-adapting-to-a-school-without-main-street/

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

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