Update: The East Side Monthly Editorial discussed here is now online here.
East Side Monthly has a curious editorial about Nathan Bishop in its April issue. The editorial makes some good points but it is ill-informed or misguided on others, and a response is in order.
The first point of the editorial is that, before tearing down Bishop to build a new school, we should think carefully about whether it would be better to renovate and preserve the structure. There is nothing to argue with here, as everyone agrees that we should carefully consider the costs and benefits- economic, aesthetic, cultural and educational- before we make this decision. Fortunately, the architects will soon be holding one or more public meetings where residents will have a chance to carefully consider and weigh in on these issues. We hope the ESM editorial staff will attend. Watch this space for announcements regarding dates.
The editorial’s point that we should be wary of new construction because many new buildings are downright ugly is also well-taken. Some modern schools look like, to quote School Board member Bert Crenca, prison architecture. At the same time, the designs of Architectural Innovations, the firm hired to design Bishop, should convince almost anyone that new schools can be lovely indeed.
The editorial then suggests that the DeJong Planning Group would profit if Bishop were torn down and rebuilt, and their recommendations are therefore self-interested. This is not really credible. First, the costs of tear-down and new construction are less than those of renovation. (I would have assumed that ESM would endorse one of these options but, as noted below, they don’t seem to see the need for having Bishop as a school). The critical point is that DeJong would not be directly involved in either course of action. DeJong was engaged to develop a plan for the city, which they have done, and been paid for. The work, if any, that is done to put that plan into effect will be done by others. At most, DeJong might be brought back after a few years to update the plan. They really have no financial interest in whether it is implemented.
Finally, the editorial suggests selling Bishop and the property on which it sits. It is hard to believe that anyone who has paid attention to the events of the last year would seriously put this forward. It is now clear that demand for good-quality public education on the east side is strong. The School Department recognizes this, as does the City. I would have hoped that an East Side media outlet would not be left so far behind the curve. Shuttering the only middle school in the area, and thereby eliminating 40% of the public school seats for K-8 is NOT in the best interest of the community. It is highly surprising that East Side Monthly would suggest doing so.
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