Friday, August 10, 2012

Yes, Dover, you still need a new high school

It appears now that Dover won’t be able to replace its aging high school anytime soon.
In fact, if I’m feeling the community’s pulse correctly, it might be years before voters believe they are economically healthy enough to cast a “yes” vote in favor of even a low-budget renovation as in this lone bullet point:

–Low-budget renovation – Tear down the 1915 portion of the high school. Place modular classrooms on subsequent empty lot.

Don’t laugh. It might come to that.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the state has spent $10 billion constructing new schools across Ohio and figures it’s only half done. In all cases and based on how poor or wealthy a district is, the state arrives at a grant amount. The catch is that the grant amount is never enough to cover the entire cost, so the local taxpayers have to kick in some more.

Dover was scheduled to receive $9.5 million in state funds to build a new high school. The district planned for a $47 million facility on a new site in the north end of the city and placed a 6.9-mill levy on last November’s ballot to cover the local share.

It was thumped.

Newark City Schools is anticipating the opening this fall of its new $39 million high school, which replaces a series of buildings constructed primarily in the ’60s. If those buildings were deemed outdated, one can only imagine the adjectives that could be used to describe Dover’s 1915 wing.

In the past, I preferred “decrepit,” but there’s a host of other apt words, including “awful,” “pitiful,” “dangerous” and “depressing.”

Anyway, Newark endured a few years of disruptions and modular units as the new school was constructed on the old site. The kids who endured it all won’t get to study in the new building because they’ve graduated, so naturally there was a level of discontent, according to another story in the Dispatch.

Newark’s new high school is part of a $144 million school building/renovation project in the city, which should provide state of the art facilities for each of Newark’s schoolchildren no matter what their age. Newark taxpayers footed 49 percent of the bill.

Likewise, there’s a generation of Dover kids – they’re in grade school and middle school now – which won’t get to study in a new high school because the community has shown little interest in building one. And they are studying in school buildings that were last updated two decades ago.

Dover’s Board of Education now has to turn its attention to getting renewal levies passed – no longer a slam dunk at the ballot box – so that means further attempts to build a new school are on hold.

I have always believed that communities go the way of their schools. If a community has good schools, it will attract people who want to invest in it. The story is told of several executives who were transferred to a Dover manufacturing facility but opted to buy homes in Stark County’s Jackson Township rather than in Dover after looking at Dover’s aging school buildings, particularly the high school.

In addition, fewer than a dozen single-family homes worth more than $300,000 have sold in Dover over the past several years, indicating that the community is not attracting residents with higher incomes.

At some point, the community is going to have to invest in the schools’ infrastructure, or live with a general degradation of its surroundings.

Here’s what has to happen soon:

–Young parents need to step up and be heard. They are the stakeholders and their children are the future. We need more young people to get involved on our boards and councils and in service organizations. If young parents are ambivalent about their children’s education, why should anyone else care? Get involved.

–Mayor Richard Homrighausen, City Council members and Dover Board of Education members need to get on the same page. They need a united front. Clearly, City Council’s silence during the campaign last year did not serve the public good.

–Citizens need to get a grip on reality. Dover and New Philadelphia are not mirror images of Camelot. For goodness’ sake, there are many communities that can boast affordable housing, nice parks and are “a great place to raise kids.” (Newark, incidentally, has all that along with new schools).

–Bury the personal vendettas. I hear a lot of “no” voters complain about a school incident involving a son or a daughter that happened decades ago, or that a coach wouldn’t play a well-deserving kid, or that “there are too many administrators” or some other unrelated-to-the-issue issue.

–Accept the fact that you are not an expert. You might think you are, but you’re not. Listen for once. And learn.

OK, I got this off my chest.

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Anonymous said...

The City Hall is 175 years old and you do not see City Council going to the School Board to get support on building a new one. As far as I know the City is not even looking at building a new City Hall anytime soon. I ask you this Mr. Farrell: Do you think that in the case of the several executives, that they also would not look to locate in this community because of run down city, police , fire, utility, offices that are out dated as well? If the city can do with what they have why can't the schools?

Anonymous said...

Compulsory attendance laws do not force parents to send there children anywhere but school. Why would they be interested in the conditions of other government buildings where adults voluntarily seek governmental employment.

Anonymous said...

Really? City hall and the school have what in common?! Several hundred people walking thru each day? No. Hundreds of people being educated and trained for the future inside it's walls each day? No. The equipment that our firemen and policemen use to do their jobs well is parked inside the facility. The only thing they have in common is an old building!! The apples to oranges comparisons have to stop. It's this kinds of thinking that is a complete roadblock to progress.

Anonymous said...

We need a new school period. Primarily because of the reasons Mr. Farrell outlined. Both of my kids graduated from DHS as well as myself and my wife. I will continue to vote for a new school levy even if I have to cut down on purchasing things I can live without.