Is it Worth it?

Posted on 16 January 2009

This week, as we sit back and look at all that has been accomplished by the Long Range Planning Committee members over the last few months. We applaud those who took part in the discussions. They did a good job at processing the voluminous amount of information presented to them.

But now, we are left slightly confused as to what the best course of action is, given the fact that this committee’s recommendations are going next to the board of education.

Do we have a realistic, up to date projection of the future population of the school? Whatever long term projects are implemented today need to serve the students in the years to come. Are we at a population plateau or are we seeing steadily increasing numbers adding to the school’s population? Any chance those numbers will be going down in the next decade?

We would like to see how the school’s theater and music departments are planning to utilize this space in the future. If, for example, we were to spend $12 million on the “Cadillac” of plans for the auditorium, how would the theater and music departments change to take advantage of the new facility? With the creation of an orchestra pit, for example, does that mean the music department  would be on track to offer an expanded strings program that actually teaches kids to play orchestral instruments?

What kind of money could the school realistically bring in if it were to rent out the new and improved theater to outside sources, as has been proposed? Perhaps other professionals in the community should be consulted, like those at the Bay Street Theatre. They’ve been in the business for a while and may have some creative cost saving ideas for the renovation of the theater and an ability to bring a real sense of savings.

The building needs work, we are aware — especially the auditorium. We wouldn’t hesitate to spend money on improvements, but we’re just wondering if there might be some other creative ways that haven’t been considered to get more for our kids while paying less.

Sometimes we get the feeling that the red tape of bureaucracy that often surrounds municipalities and school districts causes them to take what appears to be the most obvious path — but one that is not necessarily the most cost-effective nor the best thought out.

For example, as we consider the expanded parking recommendations for both schools, we lament the fact that more parking will do nothing to encourage people to walk or bike to school. A year ago, many village residents took part in forums and workshops with the hope that Sag Harbor would be able to secure a Safe Routes to School grant. Though those efforts ultimately didn’t succeed, we are reminded that much of what the Safe Routes folks advocated when they were here was the value of PR and education — low cost and no cost efforts that can change many minds without money. It’s a lesson we wish the school district had learned.

It’s a real shame. Instead of seeing groups of kids (and parents) walking to school, we’re now talking about spending another $1 million on black top. We can’t help but feel that money could be spent in better ways at the school. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about parking lots, no matter how many you have at some point in the near future, you’re going to be told you need more.

And as far as the $3 million proposed for maintenance projects throughout the school, that surely better include more than just fixing a few doorknobs and railings. 

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