Statement from the Democratic Town Committee via Joe Angland, Chair regarding Central Middle School Closure
Our thoughts go out to the students, families and staff who have been disrupted by the emergency repairs required at Central Middle School, which was shut down on Friday because an engineering report found it to be structurally unsafe. The Democratic members of the BET, the Town’s financial board, have indicated their support for required funding, and we hope the students and staff will be back in their building very soon.
Democrats on the BET have campaigned on their support for schools, and CMS in particular, for years, and they actually follow up on their campaign statements with actions and votes.
The campaign message this November was to stop kicking the can down the road, noting among other things that the situation at CMS was so severe that there were electric monitors on the walls because of concerns about the stability of the building.
Well, now that can has exploded. The need to move forward with the CMS project was obvious, and we are glad it may have bipartisan support. We’ll see.
Over the objections of the BET Democrats, the BET Republicans have rejected school capital projects, including the structural study for CMS that led to its closure this week.
(The study was conducted, and the Town learned of the immediate safety hazard, only because federal funds were made available for the schools in a Covid relief bill.) Additionally, BET Republicans have not engaged in the discussions about financial planning that were initiated by the Democrats to fund a larger capital plan. Instead, they took actions that make it even
more challenging to fund the needed Town and school projects.
The Board of Education had a challenging task to prioritize the many needs of our school facilities. Like all Town departments, the BOE attempted to comply with the culture set by the Republican BET for delaying capital requests. The BOE made tough choices to determine the phasing of the plan, but it also acknowledged that the plan would change based on new information. There is now new information.
We must get on with fixing our school facilities. It shouldn’t take an emergency closure of a building to do the right thing. Sadly, this may just be the tip of the iceberg. The BET Democrats have been calling for capital investment in other schools as well, but the Republican BET members have all too often pushed back. Deferring needed action until an emergency occurs is not sound fiscal management. One doesn’t wait until a roof collapses or a retaining wall gives way to repair one’s house, as the delay will increase the costs – and expose a family to danger. The same is true of our schools.
Let’s hope that the current crisis, coupled with the chaos caused by last year’s collapse of the ceiling at North Mianus School (which closed that school for several months), will move everyone involved to address not only Central Middle School, but the serious problems at several of our other schools.
See also: Following Assessment of CMS Physical Condition, School is Closed Feb 4, 2022