Planet Princeton

Letters: Princeton residents deserve more information before voting on school referendum

To the Editor,
The October 2 Princeton Board of Education Facilities Referendum is actually a vote on major changes to our educational system. On February 8 Superintendent Steve Cochrane, architect Prakesh Nair, and educator Heidi Hayes Jacobs presented their plans for the future of our schools—new pedagogy and open plan buildings with few interior walls that are a rebranded version of the failed open space schools of the 60s and 70s. Approving the construction funding gives de facto approval to drastically changing how students will be taught.
The presentation was heavy on PR and theoretical educational philosophy but lacked hard data. As a former teacher, teacher trainer, and textbook creator I question many of their assumptions. My online research yielded many negative reviews but not one positive review of schools that have enacted this new plan.
Princeton residents deserve more information before we vote on these changes. As a resident who will be asked to absorb another tax increase and more importantly, as someone who cares about education, I urge Mr. Cochrane, the school board, local media, and Princetonians to research open plan school buildings and open space schools. We need to know how this change will affect all students. We need information about successful and unsuccessful schools. If that means postponing the referendum, so be it. This radical change is consequential and deserves extensive community-wide discussion.
Parents, be aware that the proposed plan is an experiment that we cannot afford to have fail. The prime losers will be your children. Taxpayers, you’re being asked to pay for new construction and renovations that involve extensive structural changes, including removing walls and corridors. Failure will mean rebuilding the schools.
The quality of our schools is a major attraction of raising children in Princeton. What will happen if this new scheme does not succeed?
Sheila Siderman

Community Contributor

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