“No building left behind” should be our school district’s policy, according to Jean Jordison’s guest opinion in yesterday’s Press-Citizen. Jordison argues that the district should not build new schools without simultaneously bringing older buildings up to the standard of the new ones. “I find it hard to accept any plan that puts an older facility ‘on hold,’” she writes.
Nowhere does the essay mention that Jordison herself has been a prominent advocate for closing Hoover Elementary.
Her failure to mention that fact, or to mention Hoover anywhere in the article, parallels the approach of most of the school board. At last week’s board meeting, speaker after speaker objected to closing Hoover, but when the board deliberated, it was as if none of those speakers even existed. Five of the seven board members did not even utter the word “Hoover.” When Tuyet Dorau said that the board members need to be honest with themselves and the public about their reason for closing Hoover, no board member responded. (At another point, Chris Lynch did mention that he had concerns about Hoover; maybe he will raise them when the discussion continues at the next meeting.)
The board members did start to discuss the challenge of getting the public to approve a $120 million bond, however. Message to the public: “We won’t respond at all to your concerns and your arguments, but we do want your money.” Not a great slogan for a bond campaign.
I believe that Jordison and the board members are so silent on the topic of Hoover because they know that the arguments for the closure are unconvincing. Worse, the closure trivializes the concern for equity that both Jordison and the board have made their top priority. The superintendent has made clear that the Hoover property will be used, at best, to relocate athletic fields displaced by the City High addition. The only equity goal achieved by the closure is to ensure that City students won’t have to walk farther to their softball field or tennis courts than students at the other high schools do. For this, the board wants to close an elementary school and spend over ten million dollars to rebuild its capacity elsewhere. (I wonder if even this tennis court cost ten million dollars.)
Our district has some genuine disparities among its schools that shout out to be addressed—for example, the concentration of kids from low-income families into just a few elementary attendance areas. It’s going to be hard enough to get the public to address those concerns, through both approval of a bond and acceptance of a redistricting plan. Jordison and the board members just make that task harder, and undermine their own credibility on the issue, by associating those real concerns with “distance-to-tennis-courts equity.” No wonder they don’t want to talk about it.