The State College Area School District is updating its Districtwide Facilities Master Plan for elementary schools and holding a community forum at 7 p.m. Monday at Ferguson Township Elementary School.
Gathering public opinion is always a good idea, but I am disappointed by both the timing and the compressed time frame for public input. The forums were all scheduled between May 25 and Sept. 18, spanning the summer break when many families take vacations and struggle with complicated camp and caregiver schedules. Parent-teacher organizations are not available to help communicate the effect of this plan to the future of their children’s school. In contrast, the original Districtwide Master Plan was created over a nine-month period with a more substantial community component.
State College Area School District should make sure they are doing more than just “checking the box” with their public participation efforts. The community needs a voice early and often in school facility planning in order to get reliable results. Simply hosting a meeting, especially one with low attendance, and writing down comments is not public involvement.
Ten years ago, the high school planning process was derailed, after millions of dollars and much effort, when the district proceeded in a direction unsupported by citizens. Public involvement should not be an adversarial process; community members (aka taxpayers) have good ideas. These are our schools, and we care very much.
Karen Burgos, State College