Scrap new high school, fix old ones

I am asking that the Medford 549C School Board distribute the 2006 levy funds in a way that would accomplish the following goals: maintain neighborhood schools, enhance the two high schools, and meet the spirit of the 2006 vote, that ultimately wanted the greatest good for all of the district's students.

To these ends I suggest that the Medford School District renovate Roosevelt and Jackson elementary schools and distribute the money originally dedicated to building a new South Medford campus on Cunningham Avenue toward upgrading both North and South Medford high schools. Much of the original upgrades for North Medford High, which were cut from the 2007 expenditures plan, should be reinstituted, and the large bulk of the remaining money should be directed to upgrading, expanding and renovating the South Medford campus on Oakdale. Of course, money already in the pipeline to improve the other elementary schools would not be touched by this proposal.

If this were done, the whole community would benefit. The two elementary schools could continue to serve their neighborhoods, and North and South Medford High Schools would be improved. The parents of Roosevelt and Jackson have already made their case clear for why a neighborhood school is a vital component to a healthy community and their arguments for directing some of the levy funds to these two schools speak for themselves. With respect to the current situation affecting Medford's high schools, it is appropriate to revisit the real costs of a new high school campus and accept the fact that there just is not enough money to do it right.

Current realities dictate that the new campus would be physically smaller in many respects and in the end would require the same 2,000 students to learn in a smaller cluster of buildings. Costs keep rising, especially steel in the current world economy. This new and unexpected factor makes one fear that if the District pursues its Cunningham Avenue campus, that all we will end up with is the kind of economizing short cuts that will only short cut South's students.

It does not take a great leap of imagination to see a McLoughlin-like renovation happening at South. The building has "bones." It was well built and deserves a make over. The building could be modernized and still retain many of the stylistically appropriate architectural elements that gives South its charm. It is also possible to allocate some funding to "punch out" into some of the available land if necessary to make some of the upgrades better serve the needs of South's students.

Would building a new, but smaller cluster of buildings really meet the intention of the 2006 vote when they envisioned a new high school coming to Medford? If balanced against retaining two elementary schools, and enhancing the existing structures at North and South, the answer for a new, but downsized, campus on Cunningham is no.

Andreas Horaites is the parent of Medford School District students and a resident of the South Medford High School attendance area.

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