[This is the text of my comment at the public comment period at the July 23 school board meeting. After the public comment session, the board voted 5-2 to close Hoover School for unspecified use in the future by City High.]
I never expected to spend a big chunk of my summer talking about school facilities and helping put up yard signs. But now I have, and I’ve talked to a lot of people in the process, and one thing you can’t help but notice is how many people have taken the time and the effort to try to learn about the different facilities proposals and discuss them. People who are busy enough just trying to be parents have been poring over the scenarios and the cost numbers and the enrollment projections and capacity estimates, and in good faith trying to grapple with and respond to the arguments that are being made one way or another.
But when it comes to the Hoover closure, I have to say that it’s been frustrating. In these long-term scenarios, everything that’s going to happen, even ten years out, gets at least identified – multipurpose rooms, air conditioning, and so on – and everything is given a cost number. But when you get to closing Hoover, the scenario basically says, “We need the Hoover property to do . . . stuff. Stuff that won’t cost anything.” They don’t identify what will be done with the property, and they don’t include any costs for repurposing it, other than the cost of tearing Hoover down.
And the scenarios say, “If Hoover stays open, we’ll need to build a 750-stall parking garage at City High to accommodate the growth of City. But if Hoover is closed, somehow we won’t need to build any parking at all, on either property.” Unless the district is planning to leave a big, unused empty space where Hoover once was, it’s impossible to believe that these scenarios are not understating the total cost, or being honest about the likely use of the property as a parking lot.
And all of the scenarios include a third high school, which certainly makes you wonder why City will need 750 more parking spaces. And the scenarios are based on unrealistic capacity numbers and high-end enrollment projections. The district is almost certainly overbuilding and overspending, yet when people suggest keeping Hoover open, we’re told that we have to pinch pennies or class size will go up.
In other words, after in good faith putting in all that time and energy, it’s hard not to feel like we’re getting the runaround. Like Lily Tomlin says, “I try to be cynical, but it’s so hard to keep up.” People do feel that there’s been a breach of trust, and my fear is that the board chalks that all up to the idea that you can’t please everyone. I wish you all would reflect a little on whether there might be good reasons for why people feel the way they do, especially since you can’t implement any of these plans without coming back to the public for additional bonding, which will require 60% majorities. The RPS didn’t say anything about closing schools, and it got only 56%. It’s going to be hard enough keeping this community together once you start redistricting. How can you afford to take away a neighborhood’s elementary school without a compelling rationale?
I met with City High Principal John Bacon last week and about ten other people from the Hoover area. These are people who live near City, whose kids will go to City, who want to support City High. I said, “You’ve got ten people here who would be nodding in agreement and saying, ‘Let’s improve City.’ Instead you have ten east siders saying, ‘Why are you doing this? Why does City need to expand?’” How that dynamic helps City High, I’ll never understand. Even he agreed that an athletic field was not a good enough reason for closing an elementary school.
This board simply has not justified the closing of Hoover School.