Letter to the editor: Urge school board, administration take time to revisit middle school design

Posted:  Monday, June 11, 2018 - 2:00pm
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I don't usually question school funding issues, nor frankly do most people in town.  Historically the people here support the funding level requested each year, but this is jeopardized when a project as big as the middle school is pushed forward regardless of expense and peoples very legitimate concerns. Claiming that those of us who question the current push are anti-education is simply inaccurate & unfair. 
 
The price tag on the proposed middle school is much too high, especially so given the recent construction estimates. Having served for nine years on the Lincolnville School Board and building committee,  I am well aware of the process involved and the need to balance what is desired and recommended by the architects with what is necessary and reasonable.
 
I know how easy it is to get caught up in adding on all the wished for elements in the excitement of planning a new school, but those need to be tempered with a realistic assessment of what is necessary and affordable. I know in towns with state funding, state guidelines provide that 'voice of reason' or check; who is that voice here?
 
Our select boards have recently been one such voice to which I add mine.  Frankly the towns of Camden and Rockport are already unaffordable for the teachers who teach in them, let alone others who work in our communities. As I look around at the changes to my neighborhood (retirees & summer people) I'm not sure how many families with children will be able to afford to live here and send their children to our schools. 
 
I urge the school board and administration to step back, take the time to revisit the design, seek advice as to what elements are important and essential to a quality education and come up with a plan that brings  the cost down. One suggestion: what is the NEED for yet another theater? (or shell for a theater?)  We already have a very nice theater at the high school which is available for student productions.   I know at Lincolnville we built a combination cafeteria/theater (and probably something the state recommends for a middle school)  that has worked very well.   
 
I am also concerned about the rush to get this school built.
 
Two years ago, I taught at the current middle school for a semester and honestly do not understand why there is such pressure to replace it so quickly. Frankly in many, perhaps most, places  it would be considered quite adequate.
 
And though not the new building the high school is, in my experience it had something more critical to a good education — excellent administrative staff and work atmosphere. The high school was rushed to completion so it could open at the start of a school year which those in the know about building issues said resulted in numerous problems that then had to be addressed after the fact thru a tedious process with the contractor.  Has anyone talked to the people involved about those problems and the follow up required at the high school?  Seems like there might be something to learn from their experience.
 
I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out.  I know I am not alone in my concerns or in saying that I am unable to support the proposed building at the current cost. 
 
 
Judi Schelble, retired special education teacher, lives in Camden