I believe it's critical to vote yes in February's referendum on renovating the middle school.
The plan formulated by the board is a plan that will work, with the least expense - the least expense actually worth making - the greatest bang for the buck, and the least displacement of our kids.
There is a lot of rumor-mongering afloat in town at the moment. I watched the video of concerned citizens, my good neighbors, speaking out against the project (two or three recently had letters to this paper) and after thinking about it, I don't believe their well-intentioned criticisms hold water. For instance, yes, the New Paltz schools administration will move into the new building. But this will save the expense of renting the building at Chestnut and H.W. Dubois, as is currently the case.
The yearly tax impact for a $300,000 median-valued home will be about $52 to $57 each year for the first four years, with likely reductions after that. In other words, the tax bill will likely come down after the first four years.
Will this send residents packing in droves in toward the welcoming arms of South Carolina? I don't think so. A reasonable expense of our tax dollars will remake a school that is sub-par and decrepit, in the process helping to keep New Paltz educationally vibrant and attractive to families with young children.
Even a school district as excellent as ours needs to innovate in order to move forward, and innovation sometimes costs money.
There have been accusations that this plan is a divisive one, pitting one segment of our neighborly fabric against another. I ask with total respect for my neighbors' concerns: which is more divisive, a detailed plan submitted after hundreds of hours of work in public forums by a board of education whose names and phone numbers are published for all to see, and supported by New Paltz citizens who sign their names at the bottom of their letters; or an anonymous group that makes unfounded allegations under the banner of "Concerned Citizens of New Paltz" and at the last minute asks for a do-over?
One early suggestion was for an indoor swimming pool at the school, for the emtire community, an amenity that swimming-oriented New Paltz would have greatly benefited from. It will never happen now.
These are not easy times for most of us. Paradoxically, that's why this is the time to pool our money as a community for community benefit. Let's be creative and bold, not fearful, in uncertain times. New Paltz's priority should be to create a framework for the best education possible, not to retreat in the face of national priorities set by larger forces whose values do not center on education.
The plan presented by the Board of Education is a good and thoughtful plan. It is cost-effective. Given the state of the economy, you could even call it ingenious. It has benefits that reach far into the future on many levels. Please vote YES on February 9. And on February 10, let's all pull together, no matter the outcome.