The School Building Tour

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On Wednesday Oct. 28, 2015, the Westbury School District hosted a tour of the middle school building so that the community can see for itself why the building needs to be replaced. The tour was interesting and informative and the district should be commended for its effort to help children and for its transparency.

I attended the tour and took note of three distinct issues; building structure, building maintenance, and overcrowding.

On the tour many cracks in walls, ceilings and floors were revealed. The district voiced its concern that these defects may be structural and that the building was crumbling around them. As an architect the cracks appeared to me to be benign and normal for the age and occupancy of the building. I did not perform a full structural evaluation but I feel confident that the district stays abreast of any structural issues that would affect the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.

The maintenance of the building is another issue. It was clear to me that the roof was leaking and that the mechanical systems are outdated. It was also obvious that the building has been neglected and improperly maintained. As an architect I know that buildings can last forever if they are maintained properly. Since a new building would be subject to the same neglect as the existing building, it’s not clear how a new building would solve the school building problem.

Overcrowding is another issue that must be addressed. One problem is that overcrowding in the school is directly related to overcrowding in the community and this exposes the entire community to abuse. Another problem is that it appears that there are a lot of families who benefit from the system without contributing to it. Improved regulation and enforcement would do a lot to solve these problems.Another solution to overcrowding in the school is to release certain teenagers into a mentoring program.

What about overcrowding of school board meetings and public forums? These events are virtually empty because the community doesn’t care. This is the true heart of the problem and new buildings won’t solve it. It’s been said that much of the community is underprivileged and therefore entitled. But performance is more a function of honor and pride than restitution.

The district says that the new building won’t cost us anything. But many have lost faith in the system and don’t trust it anymore because too many decades have gone by where tax soars and performance doesn’t. The district says we can improve our school buildings at the states expensive but it’s not fair to improve buildings in a community that doesn’t care, and to do it at some one else’s expense.

We all love our students and want new buildings but we must spend wisely. The community at large doesn’t care about school performance and new buildings won’t change that. When meetings and forums are overcrowded by a community who cares and performance begins to improve, then it’s fair to talk about new buildings and taxes.
—Gary Spinello

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Since 1907, The Westbury Times has faithfully served the areas of Westbury, Carle Place, Salisbury and Old Westbury as a source for local news and community events.

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