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Should Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School building be renovated?

9/13/2018, 6 a.m.
If renovation of Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School is a viable alternative to what assuredly will be more expensive new construction, then ...

If renovation of Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School is a viable alternative to what assuredly will be more expensive new construction, then my colleagues on the Richmond School Board should have considered — and can still consider — that as an option instead of building the proposed new facility.

I make that point in rejecting in the strongest terms the view concerning the current Elkhardt-Thompson building that School Board Chair Dawn C. Page expressed in an Aug. 24 letter to Richmond’s Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, apparently in response to a query from Ms. Cuffee-Glenn.

In that letter, Ms. Page notified Ms. Cuffee-Glenn that the School Board “is not prepared at this time” to consider the demolition of the current Elkhardt-Thompson building. Ms. Page stated that the board would need to study student enrollment projections and the costs associated with repair and maintenance of the current building before making such a decision.

In my view, it would be nonsensical to retain a building that we have decided had to be replaced.

If the board reasonably believes that future enrollment might warrant retention of the current facility, then wouldn’t it make more sense to renovate what we have now in lieu of more costly new construction?

Certainly, I do not believe a board majority would suggest that once the new building opens that we put students back into the old Elkhardt-Thompson absent renovation. 

As my 9th District colleague, Linda Owen, noted at a recent School Board meeting, it was always the board’s Facilities Committee’s expectation that the property would cease to be a school. 

I can certainly appreciate not wanting to do anything in haste or demolish a facility that still has value and that the board might need if enrollment does grow. But I expect this board to make the decision in time for the opening of the new school.

To retain an old, dilapidated facility that stretches our facilities dollars even more is not prudent. And my constituents would not tolerate a large tract of land with a vacant building becoming a problem for the community.

I am glad that we are building a new Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School because our students, teachers and staff deserve it.

However, considering our other facilities needs, would it not be wiser to renovate now rather than later to save millions that could be spent on our other facilities?

JONATHAN M. YOUNG

Richmond

The writer is the 4th District representative on the Richmond School Board.