Keep A School in Town- Meeting and Talking Points

If you believe in ‘community-centered schools’ and ‘walkable / bikeable communities’ – This is a ‘last chance’ to advocate Keeping The Schools In Town.  …. At the end of this email is the official meeting announcement.

Numbers do count – Please Attend AND Make a Public Comment.

Dear Greater Lewisburg Stakeholder,On Thursday, April 22, at 7:30 P.M. the LASD School Board is holding a public hearing as part of its initial deliberations on the Master Plan and Feasibility Study at Eichhorn (in either the Large Group Instruction Room or the Cafeteria, depending on turnout).  It is time (again) for those who are in favor of keeping a school downtown to come and add YOUR voices.  This is a great opportunity to make sure your position is heard.

To streamline the process, we are suggesting that people try to focus on the tagline “Please keep a school downtown.” Of course, you likely have more to say on specific aspects of the process, but to help clarify where you are coming from, using that phrase would be helpful.Below is a shortened version of the petition text, offered to you as an option for a brief statement.  As well a list of some potential talking points is attached.  Each speaker is typically allowed 3 minutes to make their statement to the board; but taking less time would probably be appreciated.

We’ve been hearing from many people who want to see a school stay downtown but feel either that their voice doesn’t matter or that it is too late to chime in.  Neither is true.  Now is the time!
Please forward this message widely in the community.

Thanks for your support and collaboration,

The Coalition to Keep Greater Lewisburg Great

(local planners, designers, municipal officials, and citizens working for Smart Growth)

Text from Petition signed by almost 500 area residents!

It’s time to develop a solution which optimizes both learning environment and community impact.

PLEASE KEEP A SCHOOL DOWNTOWN!

The School District should collaborate and seek out planning synergies with the other major investments and projects underway that are having such impact on life in the area: specifically the Governor’s Office and Bucknell University’s strategic investments to enhance the core community, the PennDOT funding for the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and the Rt 15 Corridor Study, and the Smart Growth vision of the Union County Comprehensive Plan.

The School Board should select a consultant with substantial experience in school renovation projects to complete the proposed feasibility study.

The School Board should request at least one additional scenario to forward to the feasibility study in addition to the facilities committee recommendations, particularly one that connects to and utilizes the Simon property for a football field.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Meeting Announcement

Subject: Public Hearing on Facilities Report

The Lewisburg Area School District will hold a Public Hearing on Thursday,
April 22, 2010 at 7:00 PM
in the Large Group Instruction Room of the Donald
H. Eichhorn Middle School prior to the regularly scheduled school board
meeting.  The purpose of the hearing is to hear comments from the residents
of the Lewisburg Area School District regarding the recommendations of the
District Facilities Committee toward the development of a Master Facilities
Plan.

The District Facilities Committee has reviewed fourteen master facility plan
ideas, held two public input sessions and conducted several committee
meetings over the past few months to develop a recommendation for the
district. The Committee presented the following recommendations at the April
8, 2010 School Board Meeting:

1. Build an addition onto the Middle School for grades 6-7-8. (10,000 square
feet @  $3.4 million.)
2. Build an addition onto the Linntown School for grades 3-4-5 (15,000
square feet @ $4.0 million.)
3. Kelly becomes a Pre-K – 2 with no addition needed.  (Overall basic costs
for items 1, 2, and 3 is approximately $7.4 million.)

4. Conduct a further study on two high school options as follows:

a. Option A – Build a new high school and related facilities all on the
Newman property – $40.0 mil for the school building portion.

b. Option B – Build a major addition with renovations to the existing high
school and build related facilities on the Newman property – $29.0 mil for
the school building portion.

Lewisburg Area Residents are encouraged to visit the district website at
www.lasd.us and go to the “Master Facilities Planning” link to read the
complete Facilities Committee Report and review all the information posted
regarding the Master Facilities Planning Process.

Smart Growth Schools

Talking Points

SIZE AND NATURE OF CONSTITUENCY

500 signatures on a petition is not a small, but vocal group; it’s statistically significant; nor is it confined to those living in the Borough; over 200 signatures came from East Buffalo and miscellaneous others from the surrounding municipalities

VIABILITY OF EXISTING BUILDING

the status of the existing building may be seen as a hopeless liability by the current users, but it has not been assessed by a qualified and independent designer; to many architects and engineers in the area, it is seen as an asset; the current users cannot be expected to envision the potential of the building to house 21st Century learning, but they should be open to hearing from those who can

VIABILITY OF CURRENT SITE

the current high school site is seen as a liability to many in the area, and yet, from a planner’s perspective, it is an asset; the fact that it is in a town center and served by a robust network of roads and sidewalks means that it can absorb increased use and indeed welcomes it; ironically, building on a remote site will likely worsen traffic throughout the area

SAFETY

statistically speaking, the single most dangerous thing a child can do is ride in a car; having a highway outside a school seems like a threat to some, but is far less of an issue than ever increasing VMT (vehicle miles traveled) for student health; building on a remote site will increase the number of hours children spend in vehicles in this area

TRANSPORTATION COSTS

people who live in the core community have the opportunity to get to local institutions without using a car; this reduces car traffic for all and increases personal and community health; building institutions in locations where no one can safely walk to them requires all students to arrive in a motor vehicle, increases district bussing costs and family driving time; the fact that the bus routes take so long should be addressed directly, rather than by making misguided siting decisions

WALKABILITY

being able to walk to school is not just a convenience or quaint idea; it’s something the Centers for Disease Control and the US Dept of Transportation Federal Highway Aministration (as well as Smart Growth Planners and the National Trust for Historic Preservation) endorse as good for children’s health, family health and community health; there is a federal program called Safe Routes to School which provides funding for local efforts ranging from infrastructure improvements, to programs like the walking school bus (to ease parents’ fears of kids walking alone), to awareness campaigns; school planning over the past 25 years has appeared to involve a highly successful unspoken effort to eliminate walking to school – policy is now in place to reverse that unfortunate trend

PLANNING PRINCIPLES

local educators and community members are not expected to know what kind of planning principles might be brought to bear on the master plan process, but they can benefit from finding out that planners locally, across the state, and around the country promote the strengthening of core communities and avoid designing around the needs of the car

SMART GROWTH

“In communities across the nation, there is a growing concern that current development patterns — dominated by what some call “sprawl” — are no longer in the long-term interest of our cities, existing suburbs, small towns, rural communities, or wilderness areas. Though supportive of growth, communities are questioning the economic costs of abandoning infrastructure in the city, only to rebuild it further out… In general, smart growth invests time, attention, and resources in restoring community and vitality to center cities and older suburbs. New smart growth is more town-centered, is transit and pedestrian oriented, and has a greater mix of housing, commercial and retail uses. It also preserves open space and many other environmental amenities.”  (from smartgrowth.org)

WORK WITH THE COMMUNITY

while the issues of community health and vitality seem vague and nebulous to some, they are the basis for much funding and work in Lewisburg; that is the brief of the Downtown Partnership, the Elm St Program, the Lewisburg Neighborhoods Corporation, the Bull Run Neighborhood Committee, Bucknell University’s Core Community initiative (bringing $11M in state funding downtown), Pennsylvania’s Keystone Principles, and the Union County Comprehensive Plan; further, the Smart Transportation grants from PennDOT’s PA Community Transportation Initiative is funding both the construction of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and the Route 15 Corridor Study to promote their Complete Streets policy of designing for all modes simultaneously, not just cars

IMPACT ON EDUCATION

it is unrealistic to ask the community to choose between quality of the educational environment and impact on the community; they are intertwined and school siting has a huge impact on quality of life for all, including students and teachers; in addition, community-centered schools have been shown to increase parent involvement, which directly affects student educational outcomes, and to increase district visibility, which heightens community involvement and potential for cooperation/funding; the national movement toward small schools and learning communities argues in favor of keeping schools between 400 and 600 students; anticipated growth in the next several decades may bring the district to 200 students/year

NEXT STEPS

we need a full and careful assessment of the existing high school building and site, from a firm with experience with schools and renovation/rehabilitation in order to decide what the best use would be for that site; the school board should consider working synergistically with the many other Smart Growth efforts underway in the area (see above); transportation is central to the question of where to build and has clear impact on students and education

RESOURCES:   http://www.localactionpa.org/resources/smart-growth-schools-resources-1

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Filed under activism, lewisburg, Politics, Power, Activism

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