Okay, you needed to get out a blanket and may have even thought of turning on the heat earlier this week. There were jokes – maybe not that far from reality – that students should have been told to bring parkas when we visited summer school classes at Pilgrim Monday.
That set us thinking about cool and warm – not the governor’s failed state public relations campaign – but rather the School Department’s move of administrative offices to the former Gorton Junior High School and $8 million renovation of Vets Junior High with its centerpiece installation of an all new heating and air exchange system.
Both projects have taken heat.
Teachers and parents complained last fall and winter that the administration failed to consider the students when it spent more than $2.5 million to gussy-up public venues at the school, including a renovated auditorium and new entryway. Temperatures in the building fluctuated by classroom and wings. The air was stale and there were complaints of mold. A failed septic system where wastewater backed up into a classroom really had people angry. Some teachers told students to bring parkas and blankets to class because the windows would be open.
The complaints over Gorton focused on the cost of centralizing administrative offices and a staff of about 60 in the former school. On the top of that list was air conditioning of classrooms, many of which would become the office for a single person when they were designed to accommodate upwards of 25 students. There is a lot of space.
The move from the Warwick Avenue office was completed last week when the cool school corridors offered relief from the temperatures in the 90s. It was a confirmation of the decision to install window air conditioners in the former classrooms. This is not money wasted. Proper working conditions are as correlated to the performance of adults as they are to the teaching of students.
It’s too early to say, in the cases of the Gorton move and to keep Vets as a school, whether these were the right decisions. Gorton is huge and, because of fire code regulations, its two areas that could be of public use – the auditorium and gym – are off limits. Both buildings show their age. Some reasoned the city was throwing good money after bad by keeping Vets and should invest upwards of $100 million to build a new school. They could be right.
In the months and years to come that reasoning will surely surface again. Warwick schools are in need of attention and the debate over what should be addressed now and what can wait is ongoing. But unfortunately, unless there is an injection of state funds, dreams of all new buildings are going to be just that.