Byram Resident on New Leb: How Big is too Big? How Much Is Too Much?

Letter submitted by Judy Crystal of Byram:

June 3, 2015

Once again, our town is proceeding with an expensive project, a long overdue project, because outside forces are causing a hasty, not carefully thought-out decision.  That the New Lebanon School is undersized and outdated is clear.  That our town’s ability to achieve the externally mandated racial balance criteria is caused by complicated circumstances unrelated to education is clear.  That we must proceed in a manner that will give our children a safe, modern environment in which to learn should be clear.  Unfortunately, the manner in which the plan is proceeding lacks clarity – and logic.

As I understand, the failure of a “magnet” to draw students in order to create racial balance within a specific time frame no longer will require return of the state funds.  So, it seems, we drew a deep breath on those concerns and created a fantasy.  However, I question enlarging the project to a size (that will have to be heated, cooled and otherwise maintained) beyond anyone’s imagined future enrollment.

The facility (most specifically the lunchroom, kitchen and areas for remedial instruction) must be enlarged, but creating space that will be unused will only complement the unused space at North Street and Parkway Schools (currently being heated, cooled and otherwise maintained). Another increase in the mill rate?  Doesn’t anyone realize when we talk of “state funds” that our tax dollars comprise a fair percentage of those funds?

 In addition, none of the plans understand the narrowness of the currently one-way street that allows access to the school – and library.  Where will the (admittedly mythical) buses park as they wait for the (probably nonexistent) students?  The Byram Shubert library parking lot already is heavily used at school drop-off and pickup times.  Increased enrollment would mean more cars!  Rob Peter to pay Paul?

Attending the last meeting of the Byram Neighborhood Association revealed the illogic of many of my neighbors and I understand how difficult it is to deal with their behavior while bringing the project to an intelligent solution.  While they want a new school some are terrified that moving children to underused space elsewhere in our town for a couple of years will shatter their community.  Others are afraid that building in the ravine will destroy precious open space and, at the same time, release terrifying carcinogens into air.  I understand how difficult it will be to deal with this sort of thinking and come to a practical and intelligent decision but I beg you to consider the logical, not the emotional solution.

 I write this in the hope that you will look carefully at all the options.  That hypocrisy will not triumph.  That careful cost containment will, for once, mandate the decision made and that, whatever the demographics, my neighborhood will have a school of which we can be proud.

 Thank you for your attention.