To the editor,
Leaky roofs. Stained ceiling tiles. Mold outbreaks. Crumbling parking lots. Sweltering classrooms. Are these the learning conditions you would want your child to put up with?
Next week, the residents of the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District will vote on two referendums. If passed, these proposals would permit the district to complete much-needed repairs and upgrades that have been put off for too long.
There are some in town who would question the need for these referendums. They point the finger at old administrations, questioning why these repairs weren’t completed before. They argue that it isn’t hot all year long, so it’s ok for students to suffer in 90 degree heat as long as it’s not every day. They suggest that last year’s mold outbreak was a freak occurrence, and we don’t need to do anything to prevent it from happening again. But at the end of the day, they’re all just trying to distract us from the main question: Do students deserve safe schools and healthy learning environments?
To that question, I answer with a resounding yes.
The roofs on our schools are old, and patchwork repairs aren’t enough. In one school, a teacher was preparing for back-to-school night when a ceiling tile in her room became saturated and collapsed. In other rooms, it’s normal for buckets to be set up to catch dripping water. The district can’t even install solar panels, because the roofs can’t support them.
Mold and humidity are another issue. Last year, there was a mold outbreak that delayed the opening of school. Teachers who spent weeks over the summer in hot classrooms getting set up came in to find every single thing in their rooms had been thrown away because of mold. They had to start from scratch as students were arriving for their first day of school. In some classrooms, the only supplies available were crayons and paper. Imagine if that happened to you in your place of business? The school in which I teach, Robert Hunter Elementary, lost 70 percent of our library collection. Our school library was closed for months. This has a devastating effect on educational programs, especially when school libraries often serve as multi-media hubs for the entire school.
The district spent more than $1 million remediating the mold with no guarantee it won’t return in the future. Now, students must navigate hallways with industrial dehumidifiers put in place as a stopgap measure. They are loud and disruptive, but without a central dehumidification system they are necessary.
Mold is a significant health hazard. It can cause serious illness, and is particularly dangerous to those with asthma and allergies.
Finally, heat is not just a matter of comfort. On hot days, temperatures in classrooms can easily exceed 90 degrees as was the case in my classroom in September when it hit 92 degrees. Students become lethargic, and learning becomes impossible. Students who are asthmatic have trouble breathing. It’s a hazard to both their health and their education.
New Jersey has the best public schools in the nation, and in Flemington-Raritan we have some of the best in the state. We have a lot to be proud of, but the physical state of our facilities isn’t one of them. It should be a source of shame. The rigors of 21st Century education demand 21st Century schools.
Now is the time to take advantage of a generous amount of state aid, make the necessary repairs, and bring our schools back to the condition our students deserve.
Vote “Yes” on both proposals on Nov.r 5. We can’t afford to kick this can down the road any further.
Editor's note: As mentioned in her letter, Corfield is a teacher in the K-8 Flemington-Raritan School District.