July 3, 2018

CP Parent States Reasons Why She Will Vote for PPS Facilities Referendum

To the Editor:

Every morning there are a few things that run through my head when I watch my rising second grader walk through the front doors of Community Park Elementary. It’s the stuff every parent thinks about: Will he remember to turn in his homework? Will he eat his lunch? What would happen if an active shooter tried to gain entry to his school?

I know that Princeton Police Department would be there literally in seconds, sprinting across the parking lot that separates the municipal building from the school. And yet, Community Park — like every school in this district — is not prepared for such a situation. It was built more than half a century ago, and expanded in the early 2000s, when Columbine still seemed like a one-off and Sandy Hook unthinkable. And while the district, and principals and faculty, have taken precautions — entrances are locked, visitors must be buzzed in — they cannot make the kinds of improvements in safety infrastructure that these buildings require without a serious investment from our community.

This is just one reason why I’ll be voting yes for the $129 million Princeton Public Schools facilities referendum this fall. There are more reasons too: All of our schools are aging and due for some updates beyond security. My child and many others miss out on opportunities every day because the gym is too cold, the art room is too hot, the music room ceiling has sprung a leak, and on and on.

Moreover, most of our schools are bursting at the seams and the overcrowding cannot be satisfactorily or sustainably addressed by increasing class sizes, redistricting, cutting electives and learning initiatives like the Dual Language Immersion program (which has considerably enriched my son’s experience at CP), bringing in trailers, or building a new wing onto every school. The district explored all those options before choosing the current plan to expand the high school and build a new school for fifth and sixth graders at Valley Road. It’s ambitious but also the most elegant and efficient solution to a difficult problem.

This investment now can have a huge pay off for our kids and our community. Or we can kick the can down the road. Just know that delaying what needs to be done means shifting the educational costs and the risks onto our children.

Nicole Pezold-Hancock

Jefferson Road