TUESDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — The School District 73 board of education faces a big democratic challenge when it comes time to make a decision on the future of Stuart Wood elementary.
A public meeting last week made it very clear what people want.
Will the board decide based on what its administrators are telling it about the school — that’s it’s too old, that it’s not a good building for a school anymore, that students would be better moved to the newer Beattie building?
Or will they listen to the people?
Schools aren’t strictly about logic. They’re about community, too. Parents want Stuart Wood to keep operating as an elementary school for a couple of good reasons. Some of them attended the school themselves, or have children who did, or still do, and they appreciate the heritage and the atmosphere there.
Others, who simply live in the downtown area, understand the importance of having a school in the city core, which has already lost Allan Matthews. With Stuart Wood gone, the downtown would be less complete as a community than it is now.
That’s a key consideration. But, even on paper, the proposed closure isn’t convincing. True, the gym is too small but it should be replaced anyway. Besides small, it’s kind of ugly and doesn’t fit at all with the historic architecture of the school building.
Yes, the interior of the school is old and difficult to change, but it certainly is not unworkable. Classrooms are still classrooms.
As for handicapped access, is there no compromise, no work-around?
The Armchair Mayor suggested the other day that when governments want to get something done, they can do it. The City and the school district could make a lease-swap agreement on the Henry Grube Centre and Stuart Wood if they got creative — the City could take over the Grube Centre property from the school district for a performing arts theatre, and the school district could remain in the City-owned Stuart Wood where it could re-locate the Grube facilities.
Stuart Wood, as we’ve mentioned before, would make a fine City Hall, too. Again with some imagination and determination.
But, of course, the first and best use is as a school. The City and school district could collaborate to upgrade Stuart Wood for modern school purposes — that is, share in the cost. Maybe it would have to go to a referendum but it could be done.
So, what is the school board going to do? Take the obvious route, and close Stuart Wood as a school, or knuckle down and find a way to save it?