To the Editor:
This fall Princeton residents will vote on a crucial referendum for our schools and our children, as some of the cramped, aging school facilities have become an impediment to teaching, learning, safety, and wellness. At PHS for example, anxiety-producing school shooting drills now occur regularly, but guidance space and security remain inadequate. Classrooms are often sweltering or frigid due to HVAC problems, even during tests. Classroom and cafeteria space are insufficient, while three large, unused outside atria remain frustratingly inaccessible. And as more multi-family dwellings are built and new families continue to move to town, utilizing such capacity becomes even more necessary. Students, staff, teachers, and administrators do a truly fantastic job, but they know that critical repairs, updates, and expansion are needed right now. Referendum questions 1 and 2 address these and other pressing issues.
Some residents assert that facilities don’t matter in student outcomes, citing excellence in our schools. Teachers, parents, students, and demographics contribute to these strong outcomes, but they do not obviate the need for safe, sound buildings and adequate room for the people inside them. I am curious if those who say facilities don’t matter would choose to tolerate similarly poor heating, cooling, or crowded conditions in their homes.
I don’t especially like tax increases. But I stay informed and involved, and I feel confident in the capabilities of those entrusted to manage our schools. I have found the elected Board, administration, and teachers to be generally accessible, wise, and willing to answer questions thoughtfully. I also see with my own eyes that critical HVAC and security improvements, and capacity expansions, are necessary NOW, and would urge anyone in doubt to request a tour of the high school as a case in point (PHStourguide@ gmail.com). This wonderful high school, which Princeton takes great pride in, was built in 1927. Although there have been additions, much of that building is just plain old and it shows; it needs updating.
Some have noted that other towns require less expensive updates — but most neighboring schools are much newer than ours. I would also add that the vitriolic Cranbury discussion appears to be a bit of a red herring, as the needs being addressed in the referendum are not changed by the presence or absence of a small, declining number of students from Cranbury, while their tuition payments contribute meaningfully to the district’s operating budget.
It would be unwise to vote no on the referendum in hopes that a future analysis will result in a meaningfully better, cheaper plan. Waiting will almost certainly result in increased maintenance, construction, and financing costs, while leaving our children in sub-par facilities for longer. As Princeton residents, we’ve signed on to vote, pay taxes, and most of all to live in a community where the safety and education of children are consistently top priorities. I encourage you to vote YES on the referendum this fall and help the schools fulfill their mission for our children.
Stuart Road East