To Refocus This Plan, We Need To Vote No On March 13th [Opinion]

To say that I’m not a fan of the current plan proposed by the Collingswood Board of Education is an understatement. I think that it is wrong for Collingswood and is a bad example of school improvements.

I do agree that a construction project like this should be paid for with a line of credit, rather than the operating budget. Holding a Special Election for the bond is not a bad idea. However, the projects that the district plans to proceed with are lousy ideas. Let’s refocus to meet goals that more Collingswood residents can get behind.

A Focus On Collingswood’s Green Initiatives

In my opinion, the space for the district’s 18-21 program can be an outside space from the walls of the high school, but not if the primary purpose of that building is to serve as storage lockers. A respectable brick construction, that is LEED Certified, and has upgraded electrical service so that a charging station for electric cars can be later added is planning for the future and is something that we can be proud of.

The money for improvements to school playgrounds is not all best spent in the same way- a poured rubber surface. The projects at the elementary schools should be a separated out so that needs assessments can happen and that buy-in can also happen with the schools’ PTAs and Green Teams.

 

A Focus On Collingswood History

Saving the WPA (Works Projects Administration from the 1930s) Era grandstands is also a better use of money in my opinion. To say that the structure and is crumbling and unsafe for students is an insult to the district’s maintenance team. We could probably do a great deal of fundraising to save one of these impressive structures instead of demolishing it and erecting flimsy bleachers. The proposed “new” seating option is a 1500-seat erector set… A byproduct of cuts to public education in the 1980s and 1990s so that there is a place for spectators to sit. Giving students something that is just” good enough” and that will not stand up well is not a good way use a line of credit.

The middle and high schools are literally across the street from Knight Park. A satellite view of the park shows the baseball diamonds. Our high school’s field hockey and soccer teams are currently using the field at the park as their home field- a surface that is not ideal for their sport. I say let’s work with what we’ve got as a town that is working and not create redundancies as part of a forward-thinking plan.

 

A Focus On Collingswood Athletics

Collingswood obviously wants to invest in the sports programs that are currently using the field at the park. I believe that it is a fair request to have an area that optimal for in a sport where the surface makes a lot of the difference. I reason that the high school’s sports complex should undergo some construction to optimize it for sports like Field Hockey, Lacrosse, and Soccer.

I think that we should be widening the space that is currently the football field and track. When doing this, we should opt for a natural grass surface that can work for all of the sports that use that space. The district will then have its 6-lane track, the soccer team would have a field, the field hockey would have their new facilities, lacrosse would benefit from the expansion, and football would still have the advantage of a north-south facing field.

The current plan looks like the school wants to recoil back into itself- keep everything on campus so that they have control of the facilities and their use. Understandable from a logistics standpoint, but not rational when you consider the reality of the situation. Collingswood is a small town, the 10-acre space left for athletics at the high school/ middle school just cannot accommodate for that. It’s forcing 10 pounds of whatever into a 5-pound bag. Relax this in-the-box type of thinking and be a part of the neighborhood.

 

A Focus On The Residents Of Collingswood

Yes, Baseball and Softball would have to go across the street to Knight Park. With that, there should be some investment to improvements at Knight Park. I think that the borough and the trust in charge of the park should be seeing what they can do to make this plan work together with the school district.

I want the Board of Education to do one more thing: allow our homeschooled students to participate in these extracurricular activities. More caregivers involved as volunteers and volunteer coaches embeds sweat equity into programs. It is a good way to ensure growth and longevity that will last past the 20 years expected to pay off the bond.

To be clear, I am not against sports, I believe in their value for a well-rounded education for our public school students. Speak to anyone and town and I can guarantee that they will agree with some of the goals of this current plan.

It can be an investment in wellness, a way to improve morale, and give us something to cheer for. It can allow for growth of an existing program for students with special needs. There does remain a need for updates at our Elementary school playgrounds which could be better served as individual projects.

With that, I think that the district can still improve this plan, reduce the cost, and it will be better for our community.

By Focusing On Collingwood Athletics: Athletes can have access to improved facilities.

By Focusing On The Town of Collingswood: We have pride in the project.

By Focusing On The Town Green Team’s Initiatives: We are leaving a cleaner Collingswood for future generations.

By Focusing On Collingswood’s Historical Preservation Goals: We show respect for past generations.

By Focusing On The Residents of Collingswood: Our community is engaged with the school district and its programs.

 

What do you think of the plan that is going to the polls on March 13th? Should it go back to the drawing board, and be more reflective of Collingswood, NJ’s goals and values on the whole?

Jen R

Jen R

Jen Rossi, Chief Information Officer (CIO) Jen Rossi moved to Collingswood with her spouse in 2012. She is a graduate of Georgian Court University with a Bachelor's Degree in Education and Fine Art. She has a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing in Elementary Education (K-5) and as a Teacher of Fine Art (K-12). After a part-time floating position and substitute teaching, Jen returned to the corporate world. Professionally Jen is a Digital Marketing Manager for a privately owned insurance brokerage, providing important information on how to reduce the risks in today's business world: ranging from slip and fall injuries to computer network hacks. Getting the information in the hands of people who need it with the help of guidebooks, webinars, instructional videos, blog posts, social media alerts, and online courses. With this background in education and knowledge of the process for communicating important information to anyone willing to hear it, Jen focuses her energy on making a big impact with small things- making life a little more convenient, helping people get informed, keeping things practical and timely, and encouraging achievable goals for success. In her free time, Jen loves upcycling, improving, and otherwise repurposing materials to the delight of family, neighbors, and Etsy customers. She looks forward to running down questions and getting helpful information into social feeds and inboxes of members of the Collingswood community.