Letter to Representative Cantwell from Jen Morrison

Dear   Representative Cantwell –
I   am a mom of 2 boys whom attend the public schools in Scituate as part of your   district, the 4th Plymouth District.  Ever since we moved here 8 years ago I had   been hearing from neighbors that worked at the Gates Middle School about the   issues there with the building.    Finally last fall I decided to go see it for myself.  I was appalled at how bad it really   is.  I knew others in town were not   aware so I decided to set up an information night for others to hear from the   Principal and School Committee on the situation.  Over 40 people came to that meeting last   November.  Since then I have formed the   community group whose main goal it is to improve the education able to be   given at the middle school by allowing it to take place in a safe,   accessible, healthy, and conducive to learning environment.
I   know that the SOI is in to the MSBA whom just scheduled to come see the   school on June 6th. Scituate voted at the April 9th   town meeting to approve 375k in funds to create a master plan for our town   buildings, which includes Gates.  When   the SOI needed to be submitted last December it was not clear if we were   asking to build a new school or looking to renovate the existing   building.  I am looking for your   guidance in how we can help work with the MSBA so we are chosen for their   help and funding.  I know there are 280   other SOIs into the MSBA right now.  I   do not think we can afford to wait any longer.  We need Scituate’s new middle school to be   “fast-tracked”.  The primary reason is   that the almost 100-year-old building is not handicap accessible.  It is on paper with horrible band-aide   approaches but it is not truly accessible.    Children needing to use the lift have to wait until the stairways are   cleared of other children.  That is   humiliating and unacceptable.   This   also means these students are missing valuable educational time as they   maneuver the building.  I can’t even   imagine what horrible things would happen if there is a fire.
Here   are a few of the other reasons why Scituate needs a new middle school;  (there are many more reasons explained in   the SOI so while this list is long I tried to highlight a sample)
1.       Safety is a huge concern in the building.    There are not the proper fire doors that enable the school to be   “locked down”.  In the event of a fire   kids can slip back in to the building.    There is also no way to lock down the building with students inside,   as was the case in Marshfield last year when there was a police hunt for a   killer.  It also means that anyone   could enter the building unnoticed.
2.       Air quality is also a huge concern.    The leaks in the roof and through the windows are well documented in   the SOI.  The water damage is evident   to the naked eye and any time there has been water damage for any prolonged   length of time there is mold. Any child with allergies and/or asthma will   have worse health in a building with water damage and old carpeting.  Personally I smelled the mold and know a   now 9th grader who missed more days of school in 7th   and 8th grade combined then she did from Kindergarten through 6th.
3.       The failing HVAC systems result in extreme hot and extreme cold in classrooms   (often all in the same day) and poor fresh air circulation causing   considerably bad air quality – stagnant and stuffy air high in CO2.
4.       To quote another part of the SOI – There is peeling paint throughout the   interior of the building but especially in B-wing.  The paint flakes show multilayers and are   flaking off down to exposed brick.    This concerns me due to the health hazards of lead paint and as the   building is 96 years old you know that some of those layers of paint have to   contain lead.  There is known areas of   the building that also contain asbestos.
5.       Gates is currently overcrowded (per state guidelines) and only houses 7th   and 8th grades. By building a new middle school, enabling 6th   grade to move where it belongs with 7th and 8th, it   eliminates the overcrowding at the elementary schools as well.  This also gives the 6th graders   more opportunities like a foreign language that they are not able to get at   the elementary.
6.       The cost to run such an old building is a huge waste of taxpayer   dollars.  $150,000 per year just on   heat – out the windows and sides of the building.  A neighbor told me that when she worked   there it would snow on her desk in the building.
7.       Money is also wasted because the cafeteria’s dishwashers are broken so all of   the food is served on trays that are thrown away.   To me that is also a huge environmental   concern.
8.       2/3rds of the students responded to a survey last year that building concerns   affect their learning.  Imagine how   distracting it is to be in class at 55 degrees, or have a window crash into   the room, or a ceiling tile fall in and water leak in.
9.       The 2 “wings” that were added in the 1950’s were never meant to be permanent   so they do not have foundations.  This   causes issues like water damage and rot.    The town has to constantly fix these issues and at this point I think   it is just throwing good money down the drain.
10.     Another safety concern is that the fire protection is limited to the B-wing   and the attic of basement A-wing.  This   means a majority of the building is without fire protection.  With the fifteen different level changes   and size of the building over the various “wings” it would take a long time   for children to get out of the building in the event of an emergency.  One of the rear fire escapes is in need of   repair.
11.     There are electrical concerns with only 1 or 2 outlets per room, which is   very inadequate, and the network wiring that has been put in is all   exposed.  During my tour of the   building a teacher showed me an outlet that she had to tape over to protect   it from a water leak.
12.     The size of the classrooms at Gates prohibits 21st Century   teaching and learning.  Most of the   classrooms are too small to allow for group work, project-based learning and   technology integration.  In addition,   they are severely limited in terms of technology.  The student to computer ratio at Gates is 7   students to 1 computer, which is far below the state average.
13.     As a member of Scituate’s Economic Development Commission, I also see that   this horrible building situation will, or has already, started to effect our   town economics as people will choose to live in our neighboring towns over   us.  It is great that Marshfield is   getting a new High School, Hingham a new middle school, etc. etc.  However it is time that Scituate replaces a   96-year-old building that outlived its life as a school over 30 years   ago.
Thank   you very much for your time and consideration of this important matter.   Please let me know if I can have our group   help you in anyway improve this situation for our town in the shortest amount   of time possible.
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