First let me say, this article is my personal opinion as a resident of Bethany and not as a member of the Bethany Board of Education. The Board of Education has nothing to do with the content of this article.
Unfortunately, the Bethany Board of Education (BOE) has started down the path of asking the Town to fund an eight-room addition to house the fifth and sixth grades at BCS at an estimated cost of $6.4 million.
Per the presentation given by the architect, this addition can only be built in one place – on the tennis courts behind the school. This is due to the location of utilities where the annexes presently are situated, and the other areas have large amounts of ledge, the removal of which would increase costs significantly.
Many reasons were given for why this addition is necessary at the last BOE meeting: there is asbestos in the annex buildings; lead in the pipes carrying the drinking water; the air quality is poor.
In response to these reasons, it can be said that yes, there is asbestos in the annexes – just as there is asbestos throughout the school. It is encapsulated, and therefore deemed not to be a hazard (in fact, most buildings built before the 1970’s have asbestos in them).
Yes, there is lead in the pipes – just as there is lead in ALL the piping throughout the school. There is lead in the pipes leading from the well. There is lead in the solder used to connect all the piping, and there is lead in all the faucets used throughout the school. There is lead in your faucet at home, and if you have copper piping, in the solder used to connect them, whether you realize it or not.
As for the air quality, the air is tested at least once a year, and the results always come back that it is safe.
So why the push to abandon the annexes?
What it comes down to, I believe, is that some BOE members and parents just don’t like them. Period.
And if you fixed every alleged problem with them, they would find more reasons to abandon them. They have no desire to hear from parents who have no problem with them. They have no desire to hear from experts who will tell them there is no danger presented by use of the buildings.
Regardless of whether you are for or against the abandonment of the annexes, building an addition to only address the fifth and sixth grade classroom issues is shortsighted, and doesn’t address the myriad other problems the BOE also claims need correcting.
Currently, the school’s Science room has been appropriated for Special Education. Twenty percent of planned physical education time is lost because the gymnasium is unavailable due to its use for other purposes. There is no dedicated space for supplemental skills instruction, which is currently taking place in the rotunda – an area originally meant for the purpose of larger group instruction.
The building addition, as currently proposed, does NOT address any of these needs, leaving the possibility open that the BOE will come back in the future with yet another request for more funds for yet another building addition.
However, prior to embarking on the mission to build an addition, the BOE failed to address several vital issues, including the fact that the student population has been in steady decline and is predicted to drop by another 100 students to as few as 375 students in the future. When asked by residents about whether or not a space study has been performed, the BOE conveniently ignores the question and refuses to perform a valid one by an independent consultant.
The BOE refuses to look at other solutions, including the option of increasing class sizes to decrease the number of rooms needed, or perhaps having Amity move the sixth grades to the junior high, as other towns have done. The junior high can certainly handle the increase in student numbers – at one point in time – a time when class sizes were larger than today - the Middle School included 7th, 8th AND 9th grade.
If the BOE is concerned with air and water quality, has it looked at the cost of installing air exchangers, and a filtration system for the well?
The BOE needs to evaluate all feasible alternatives prior to asking the taxpayers to foot a $6.4 million bill. And once they have, IF it is determined that a building addition is the only viable solution and we have only one available space to build it in, then it should be designed properly to meet ALL the needs now.
There will be a open forum to discuss the building proposal on Dec. 12 at 6 p.m.
I urge everyone to come and work together to find a better long-term solution that works for everyone involved – the parents, the students, and the taxpayers.