Letters: Princeton school board should proceed with referendum as planned

To the Editor:

A referendum has been planned for this fall where voters can decide whether they support an expansion and update of the facilities of the Princeton Public Schools. As a mother of two children, 11 and 14, I am well aware of the overcrowding at the middle and high schools. In many of my 8th grader’s classes this year there were 25 or even 30 children. There was hardly room to move, let alone get a good view of the board and teacher. Immediate action is necessary given the steadily increasing numbers of students.

It seems that a small, very vocal group of people who oppose this project have been mobilizing to prevent this referendum from taking place. This seems wrong to me, and is not how a democracy should work. It should not be the loudest who decide, it should be the majority, and the majority is being asked at the vote this fall.

There are many people in town who are in favor of the investment; many people who think there is only one choice: We are all worried about the tax impact, but we need to invest in our schools and our children. But these people have not been speaking up because they are waiting for the vote this fall.

I encourage the Board to proceed with the referendum as planned. I hope that the investment can be made in a way that the tax impact will be as low as possible; I hope that the major tax impact will only be limited to three years. But there is never a good time to raise taxes. The benefits (for some) of the tax reform are due to expire in a few years, so raising taxes then will be even worse than it is now. The time to act is now, while we can head off the worst overcrowding. We must act before we have kids in trailers, before we can no longer offer the curriculum the people in this district expect, and before our property values start going down because the schools are no longer a draw.

Wiebke Martens

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3 comments
  • Thanks Marc! Excellent comments on every point. Many of us have a stake in this and we all love our kids.

  • Dear Wiebeke, Not to shock you, but… PPS students were learning in trailers after the 90 million plus dollars taxpayers spent to fix our schools was approved. IF the referendum you want is rammed through by PPS “as is”, the likelihood that one or both of your children will be learning in a trailer or trailers during construction is quite high. Don’t panic. There are children learning in trailers & huts throughout the world who are outpacing our kids academically… many adults work in them throughout the world… and many US families actually live in trailers too. Most PPS students liked the quiet of the trailers & the chance to catch a bit of air & nature while coming & going from them.

  • I strongly disagree. As a father of two children who recently graduated from Princeton schools, I believe in the importance of our public education system. I also acknowledge that the district needs to address the issue of overcrowding in the middle school.

    However, while I’m not opposed to investing in our schools, I do believe the Board’s current plans are extravagant and fiscally irresponsible. They are also being rushed through without adequate opportunity for public discussion and evaluation.

    For instance, despite numerous attempts, questions about the ongoing operating costs for the 5/6 school, the retraining costs related to instituting a new pedagogy in the High School, and the accuracy of the projected enrollment estimates, all remain unanswered by the Board. While the near-term tax implications are relatively well-described, the long-term impact, which will include additional staff for the 5/6 school and support staff for the new curriculum at the HS, have yet to be described at all.

    Furthermore, the current plans include some projects, such as $8 mln for new athletic fields, that are not urgent, and others, such as the $60 million earmarked for the gutting and rebuilding of the interior of the High School, that are incomplete and deserve careful scrutiny. (Indeed, one resident architect called the current architectural plans for the HS “greedy”).

    Given there are still many questions that the Board has yet to resolve, the community would be well-served to split the referendum in two to ensure approval of enough funds to begin construction of urgent projects (i.e. the construction of the 5/6 school), while providing adequate time for the Board, and the community, to properly assess the other, less pressing, proposals (particularly for the HS) as well as the long impact of the overall plans. In this way the Board can ensure our tax dollars are spent responsibly.

    This, BTW, is democracy in action. Communities include people with differing opinions. Just because the Board is considering suggestions from community members you may disagree with does not make the process undemocratic, or mean their perspectives should be disregarded.

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