To the Editor:
Several years ago, my husband and I began looking for a place to call home. We were drawn to Plainville for its small town feel, sense of community, and wonderful school system. Over the years, we started a family and outgrew our home. Despite the fact that both my husband and I commute nearly an hour away from Plainville for work, we knew that we wanted to stay. At the start of this school year, we moved from the Toffolon district to Wheeler. When I saw Wheeler School, I could not believe my eyes. I was in disbelief that we were in the same town. The other schools in town have been modernized yet Wheeler is untouched.
While I was immediately disappointed in the state of the Wheeler School building, it wasn’t until I visited the school a few more times that I truly realized the state of things. The roof leaks, the heating system is inadequate, many of the windows cannot be operated correctly, and the layout of the school is not safe or efficient. As a mom, I want my children to learn in the safest and most secure environment they can. As a taxpayer, I want to have an energy efficient/cost effective building. Walk through Wheeler on a cold day and you can feel the heat going straight out the drafty windows. The buildings we own in town are an investment and we need every one of them to maintain their value and be as efficient as they can.
I am also an educator. Currently, research abounds that directly correlates student achievement and physical environment. It has been proven in countless studies that students in a safe, secure, and modern space perform at higher levels. Environment affects behavior/attitude, attention and focus, and even physical health. All of these directly impact academic achievement. The school’s environment affects both student and staff ownership/investment in learning, morale, and a sense of community. All of these are linked directly to student achievement as well. In short, our students need the best environment we can provide.
Financially, now is the only time we will have to get reimbursement funds from the state for these renovations. The future of the state’s funding of these reimbursements is unknown after June 30th so now is the time. If we continue to defer maintenance, the accumulating costs will lie with the taxpayers and by then there may not be reimbursement aid from the state.
With the debt service in town declining, we are left with the ability to add new debt without directly impacting our taxes. Again, if we defer the maintenance to this building and are left to make improvements in a few years, our debt service may not be able to absorb the cost and our taxes would go up. Doing these renovations now with a 65 percent reimbursement rate and our current debt service in town is a fiscally responsible decision.
The only responsible decision we can make right now is to invest in our children and vote es on the June 6th referendum to renovate Wheeler School.