Winston Churchill’s Advice to Central

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUE b    “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill
    The overcrowding of schools in Central has been a hot topic since before Central became a city.  Some worry that the city is allowing too many new subdivisions too quickly.  Others worry that more school buildings will mean higher taxes.  Still others worry about overcrowded classrooms hurting the quality of the schools.  Winston Churchill would advise us to stop worrying and start planning.  I agree.
    Despite the investment of well over $50 million in new and upgraded school facilities, there are still twenty-six elementary classes meeting in “T-Buildings,” temporary classrooms sitting on the ground next to Tanglewood and Bellingrath elementary schools.  This week the School Board voted to replace these individual T-Buildings with larger temporary wings (article on front page).
    This was a $1.5 million decision.  My first question is: “How does this fit into the long-term facilities plan?”  The answer is, our School Board has no long-term facilities plan.  If a new elementary school is planned in three years, purchasing temporary wings of classrooms to be used for eight years would be a waste.  Was this a good or a bad decision?  Without a long-term plan, who can know?
    The School Board is spending almost $2 million purchasing the former Greenwell Springs Hospital property, rumored to be the site for a new high school, but there is no plan in place to build a high school at all.  Was that a wise use of tax dollars?  Without a long-term plan, how could anyone decide?
    Several years ago the School Board proposed the construction of the ninth grade academy.  At the meeting approving almost $6 million for this building, I questioned how it would fit into the long-term plans for the high school.  I was told there was no long-term plan, but that we needed the classrooms now.  Was it a wise decision?  Without a long-term plan, there is no way to know.
    I sat with Superintendent Faulk this week and expressed my concern about the lack of planning.  I was told not to expect any planning to begin for another four years.  That concerns me.  According to 2009 projections by the school system’s architects, Central’s current schools, along with the new temporary wings, will be filled up in about five years.  The long term planning needed to start five years ago.
    Are long-term plans perfect?  Certainly not.  Do plans change?  Of course.  But not planning at all is just not wise.  Plan for the best and worst case in both population growth and available funding, then revisit the plan each year and adjust.
    With a long-term plan in place, each decision along the way, such as T-Buildings, property purchases, and building additions, can help to accomplish the long term plan.  Those better decisions could easily mean cost to the taxpayers in the long run.  Turning worrying into planning would be Good News for a Great City.

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