Back in 2005 the New Paltz Central School District was advised that the physical structure of the Middle School was failing in many areas due to age, wasting energy in copious quantities, and likely to suffer critical failure in less than a decade, even if the ten million dollars in immediate repairs were undertaken. It stated in no uncertain terms that the district would both save money and better solve its problems by either substantially renovating or building a new Middle School. That is the origin of the discussion that’s been going on in earnest at this table and throughout our community for the last two years. This report came on top of educational shortcomings of which we, our administrators, and our teachers were already painfully well aware – that the aged infrastructure was interfering with our teachers’ ability to readily deliver the quality of education today and into the future that we have expected in the past and that every generation of New Paltz students deserves. Now, after two years of intensive study and design exploration, with the able assistance of our dedicated staff and top contracted engineering, architectural, and construction talent in the educational field, we as a community are poised to solve our problems and meet the needs of our children as we raise them to adulthood in the complex and challenging 21st century.
A few months ago a team of teachers from the Middle School gave us overwhelming testimony in support of the proposed concept. We were told of how teachers push materials from classroom to classroom on teacarts. We were told of how collaborative classes frequently meet in hallways due to lack of classrooms that can hold two classes. We were told of the noise disruptions in the vicinity of our music programs. We were told of the lack of handicap access to many programs, and the challenges achieving inclusion for special ed students. We were told that our classrooms don’t even have sufficient outlets to plug in as many computers and other technology that is needed for today’s education. We were told of the security risks and loss of classroom time due to the labyrinthine locker system and long walks between classes. We were told in no uncertain terms how the proposed concept solves all of these problems and more, while providing sufficient flexibility to allow our programming to change and grow. What a wonderful opportunity we now have to offer these outstanding educators facilities that actually serve, rather than obstruct, the team learning philosophy that has long existed and succeeded at our Middle School.
I’d also like to say what an honor it has been for me to serve this community in this capacity, and to have been allowed by their support to work with such capable board colleagues, administrators, teachers, staff, and top-flight contracted expertise to reach this moment where I can truly say to my neighbors that they will soon have the opportunity to provide a continuum of the best education our children can receive at a price our community can afford. Throughout our region over the last two weeks almost $200 million dollars in capital improvements have been approved by voters, several at much higher total and individual cost than ours, showing that even in these hard time, or perhaps because of them, citizens are willing and able to distinguish between the wants and needs of their school districts, to capitalize on current low interest rates and lock in competitive construction bids for the long-term benefit of their communities. I cannot think of a better time or a better place to build a 21st century educational facility on a site that preserves the living history of New Paltz public education and affirms and strengthens the ties between community and education that builds the knowledge and citizenship that prepares children to not only enter, but to successfully participate in the modern adult world.
I will cast my vote yes to bring this referendum before the public for their approval.