April 28th Address to the Annandale School Board

As Im sure you are aware, there has been a lot of commotion in the community for several weeks regarding the Task Forces recommendation to demolish the 1922 building.  And what it boils down to is simple:

  • The 1922 building is a very significant part of this community and means a great deal to many people.
  • There are many educational advantages to the current building location.
  • Many people do NOT want it be demolished; they want its renovation on the next bond referendum.

There have been numerous letters in the Advocate, also a front page feature article, hundreds of people have signed petitions, there have been meetings and emails and phone calls and posters.  It all boils down to the same thing: many people want you to choose to reconsider that one part of the Task Force Plan, that which leads to the demolition of the 1922 building. 

Several weeks ago, soon after I learned of the upcoming Task Force recommendation to demolish the 22, I met with Mr. Niklaus in his office.  I told him that I thought there were many people in the community who do NOT want to see it demolished.  At that time I had no idea just how many. 

That day in his office he told me that the decision was not about money, the fact that it might cost more to renovate the building than to build a wing with new classrooms, but rather it was about the future; namely, that investing money into the 22 stands in the way of the long term plan to move the whole Middle School away from its current site near downtown Annandale, to a different site. 

He repeated a similar message at the April 9th meeting of supporters of the 22, and at that same meeting Task Force member Jeff Lundquist said that the money aspect is not that important, but rather that the issue is about the fact that the current Middle School site is landlocked.  Also at that meeting, a former School Board member asked why the building has to be demolished; why not just leave it there?  Mr. Niklaus answer was that it would just get worse.  The Task Force Report being presented this evening says remodeling the 22 would commit the school district to this site for decades to come. 

Ive given that a lot of thought, and Ive concluded that its very clear that the decision to demolish the 1922 building was put in place a long time ago.  Thats why the building has been allowed to fall to such a sad state, needing so very much in the way of deferred maintenance.

A recently retired teacher told me just the other day that one thing Annandale can be proud of is that it has always taken good care of its facilities; they are well maintained.  Based on the 12 years I worked at Bendix Elementary I would concur: even small repairs were done right away, corners were always clean.  But then we look how the 22 building has been allowed to deteriorate, and we see that we have NOT always taken care of our facilities.   

It has been a long-standing assumption on the part of most of the community, including some former school board members, that the ultimate demolition of the building was inevitable.  The current Task Force was informed at the beginning of its many meetings that it could not be repaired and would eventually have to go.  Then inspectors came out and declared the building to be structurally sound.  It needs much in the way of fixing, but it is basically a sound building, just one that has fallen into disrepair. 

Based on the assumption that it would be demolished soon anyway, its is understandable why decisions were made year after year to put as little money as possible into fixing it.  But surely we can consider the option of bringing our existing classrooms back up to being quality educational facilities rather than adding more classrooms -- especially during this time of declining enrollment. 

And its not too late. 

Mr. Niklaus told me that day in his office that the school district is at a crossroads: the 22 is currently in such a bad state that it must be either fixed or demolished.  And the Task Force report says the same thing.  Bullet Item #17 of the consensus statements says:  The 1922 portion of the building needs to be phased out or remodeled.

We here this evening, and those hundreds of people who wrote letters, signed petitions, and contacted you in other ways, we respectfully implore you to choose the latter option, to remodel it. There is value to both students and the community in leaving the building where it is. 

It is not too late to bring the building back, but once its gone, its gone.

Speaking only for myself now, let me say that if the next bond referendum does NOT include the renovation of the 1922 building, I will be terribly disappointed, but I will still vote YES.  I have never voted against anything the school asks for, and I cant imagine I ever will.  But if the next bond referendum does include the renovation of the 22, I vow that I will work very hard to see that it passes. 

Many of us who wish to save the 1922 building from demolition have considered this whole process to have three phases.  

  • Phase I - to convince you, the School Board, to include the renovation of the building on the next bond referendum.
         If that is successful, then we move on to the next phase,
  • Phase II - to work very hard with you to see that it passes.
          If that is successful, then comes
  • Phase III - to offer to seek grants and donations to bring the 22
    up to its full potential as a historic site. 

Soon you will have to decide if all this commotion is just a lot of noise from a few people, and then you can continue on the current path leading toward the demolition of the building.  But we hope you will conclude, instead, that this issue is a deep concern for many people who would consider the demolition of the 1922 building a profound loss.  In that case we hope that you would choose to alter the current course and include the renovation of the 22 on the next bond referendum. 

Before I close, I want to thank you for your service to the community as members of the School Board.  It is a big responsibility, and I have never doubted that you all do your very best to make the right decisions. 

In conclusion, our message to you this evening is simple:

At this crossroads in the future of the 1922 building, please listen to the many and sound reasons for putting its renovation on the next bond referendum. 

Jill Bishop


Annandale Online

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