Editor, The Cheshire Herald:
I would like to thank the members of the School Modernization Committee for their hard work on that important and complex project. However, after reading the final report, I was disappointed to see that the Committee was recommending the option for two new elementary schools. I am looking forward to seeing any additional options that Mr. Jinks may put forward, and I really hope it focuses on a new 6-8 Middle School option.
Obviously, all of our schools need attention, but as a parent very familiar with Dodd, I know two things. First, two years at that school is just not enough for our kids and they would benefit immensely from a third year there. Second, there is not enough classroom space, parking, athletic fields, nor musical performance space for the students, staff and parents to be able to fully enjoy and benefit from the amazing things that happen there.
In the report, the SMC predicted that within the next 2-8 years, three of four of the Elementary schools will be over capacity, except for Doolittle, which currently cannot fit ‘its own’ Kindergardeners on site. Building a new 6-8 middle school would instantly remove a full grade level at each elementary school, making more space available to accommodate increasing enrollment and allowing Doolittle to fit its K program on site.
In addition, while our elementary schools are certainly in need of renovation, they still manage to feel friendly and quaint, each nestled in its own community. I don’t think potential home buyers would be discouraged by the overall appearance of our elementary schools, especially after some renovations.
On the other hand, the Dodd location is difficult to reach, the property is small, and the traffic at drop-off and pick-up is a nightmare, for both parents and surrounding residents. I cannot imagine how any future renovations at that current site under “scenario 6” could possibly address the multitude of issues at that location.
While the hot weather is an issue for all of our schools, the second floor of Dodd is absolutely stifling. During concerts, open houses, graduations, and special events, there is not nearly enough parking, and the gym overflows with concert attendees. The soccer teams play partially on the softball field, which disrupts interscholastic play for soccer and damages the infield for softball. When you attend ‘away’ games, you can quickly notice that Dodd’s building and sport fields are badly inferior to our surrounding towns. The current state of our Middle School could certainly be a huge turn-off to potential home buyers, which would decrease our home values moving forward.
Most importantly, I think that most parents in town can attest to the fact that Dodd is a special place, even with its physical shortcomings, and that our 6th graders, while well served at our community elementary schools, would benefit academically, socially, and emotionally from a third year in the middle school setting. We have the chance to make that change now, and if we don’t, I fear we’re missing a huge opportunity to benefit students, parents, and all home owners in Cheshire.