TO THE EDITOR:
I attended the STEAM Community Conversation #2 webinar on March 2, 2022 and would like to offer the following thoughts.
1. It seems to me that any initiative that talks about investing $60 million - $120 million (capital) to improve/modernize the school buildings in Weston should focus on what educational outcomes will be achieved not just on the age and conditions of the buildings. The presentation by the architects and the chair of the FOC (Facilities Optimization Committee) was focused on the age of the buildings and was silent on the issue of educational outcomes. There is nothing wrong with “old” as long as the buildings are well maintained and in good repair. And, in fact, the architects asserted that the buildings are well maintained and in good shape.
2. I would also point out that the Weston School System is delivering world class outcomes to our children as evidenced by the numerous state and national awards it has garnered over the years. Our schools are consistently ranked in the top 10 in Connecticut and our kids come out well prepared to go on to college or to pursue careers. On a personal note my two sons are products of the Weston system and went to Ivy League schools where they received a world class education, often sitting in buildings that were over 100 years old.
3. One of the other “benefits” of this investment is to provide a “21st century educational experience.” But no one on the committee could describe what that means.To me this is a catchy phrase that’s very opaque. What, in fact, do the kids get and does it need to cost this much?
4. The town is still paying off the bonds from the last major investment in the schools from about 20 years ago. If memory serves, that was somewhere close to $90 million. I believe we have about two more years before the bonds are fully retired. We already have the highest mill rate of any town in Fairfield County and, maybe, in the whole state. It might be “nice” to give the taxpayers a break for a couple of years before embarking on a major capital initiative that has vague and difficult to measure goals.
5. Over my time in town, enrollment in the schools has probably averaged about 2,000 students +/-. If we have over-built in times past so be it but let’s not make that error a second time.
6. I need not point out that we are living in volatile times: a global pandemic, war in Europe, inflation at record levels, political gridlock on many important issues in this country, more debt than we can count. We don’t need to do this now.
Let’s pay off the bonds, let’s see what the next few years look like, let’s maintain the high quality school system that we have enjoyed for these many years and let’s continue to support and applaud the leadership and teachers in our school system who have demonstrated their love for our students and their commitment to excellence. They are the not so secret sauce that makes our schools great.
It isn’t about the buildings.
— Carl Urbania
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