Sunday, March 23, 2008

Speak Up Now About Fayetteville High School

At long last, the Future of Fayetteville High School Select Committee 2 will hold its first public comment session on the location of FHS at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Ramay Junior High cafeteria. According to a press release from school district administrators, “The purpose of the meeting is to allow district patrons to express their thoughts on the future location of [FHS ].” Committee chair Tim Hudson said he isn’t sure what the input gathering format for the meeting will be, so be ready for anything.

An article about the meeting in today's Northwest Arkansas Times quoted School Board Member Susan Heil as saying, "
I’m very interested to see who will be there." She didn't say she would be interested in hearing what people might have to say, but, then, she's already made up her mind to vote for selling the current location and building a new Mega-School outside of town.

The only other person quoted in the article was Judy McDonald, who along with Jeff Koenig and Laura Underwood, has been a vocal advocate for selling Fayetteville High School to the University. That is the kind of "fair and balanced" reporting we have come to expect from a newspaper that pays dues to the sprawl-loving Cowbirds and the secretive FEDC, both of which have testified they want the Mega-School out in the suburbs. Executive Editor Greg Harton for months has been humping for dumping the central location and building the Mega-School in Wheeler, so it is not surprising that the "reporter" Brett Bennett "forgot" to interview anyone from BuildSmart, the 900-member citizen group that was been providing tons of information and lots of options for a sensible compromise.

To paraphrase Paul Harvey, here's the rest of the story that you can't read in the Northwest Arkansas Times. Dr. Janine Parry was ignored in the Cowbird's house organ, but here's some of what she wrote to The Morning News.

"BuildSmart supports a compromise solution for the future of FHS. It is a solution available to the current select committee and likely to satisfy people who seek a 21st century high school and people sensitive to the new fiscal reality of our community; people who prefer the current site and people who worry about construction safety; people who understandably prioritize the experiences of their own children and those looking ahead for generations.

"The solution is this: the construction of a new 3-4 story building across the street from the current facility. Once that is complete, and students are safely located in the new facility, the current building would be subjected to a massive renovation. The total anticipated construction time for both stages is 3-4 years, though the first building -- the brand new facility to be occupied by the 10th-12th grade upon its completion -- would be done sooner.

"The beauty of this compromise is manifold. It results in a world-class school with high-tech classrooms, a large cafeteria, a gorgeous auditorium, and modern security measures. It is modestly-priced ($65-77 million). It looks ahead to the transition to two schools. It plays to Fayetteville's competitive advantage with newcomers by showcasing FHS's unparalleled access to the University of Arkansas. It preserves our community's few remaining large acreages for the residential and commercial development that will generate property taxes. It considers the negative impact of a longer daily commute on students, families, and the district's transportation budget. And, above all, it stands the best chance of exciting enough voters to build the 21st century facility we need.

"This kind of compromise solution is what BuildSmart is for. It is what we have supported for nearly a year."

You should, too. Show up Wednesday night and speak your piece.

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