Progress arrives many times like an unwelcome guest. Very necessary but not always easy. In the case of our semi-small town with three high schools, a place where traditions and emotions run deep, nobody likes loosing their school even long after they have gone on. The loss of a school stirs people to protest, causes communities to fold and die, and creates a vacant building for demolition – a melancholy tribute to history. This happened in the 1960s with desegregation and closing of Booker T. Washington high school. The Eastside community was devastated. After the closing, people moved out, property fell into disrepair, crime went up, drugs were rampant.
Yet in order to embrace progress and remain a competitive, viable community to build a skilled workforce and to prepare young adults for college, embrace it we must. Decisions must be made about our schools, their conditions, the needs they meet, the needs they don’t meet. I mean, technically it is the humanistic quality of the teachers inside that educate the kids, it is possible to learn in an old fashioned way, inside a bearable but ugly room; but maybe you can’t learn state of the art technology or career oriented trades in that manner. Let’s face it, we have to meet the world tomorrow.
Once upon a time, three high schools worked well here; they were big, but not too large. They were fairly equally divided, talent was spread out evenly for athletics and other extra curricular pursuits. Then something happened and the town embraced the “Choice Program” allowing kids to pick their junior high and high schools. Somewhere enveloped in all of that, lead to the creation of a super school. The popular school: overcrowded and killing off the other two. They won everything, every year. It was no longer any fun to attend any of the events, it would all end up in the Golden School’s crown. I can’t say anything, I’m guilty there, but now I must confess, I balk at some of the appointed “committee’s” solutions to the problems.
There are a few people on this committee who didn’t go to school here, I didn’t either, but you can’t live here and not understand the inherent traditions and what these schools mean to the community, for the former students they educated, for those growing up in this town, for those growing up then moving on. To wipe all that away and create one monster super school, a large institution of sorts, just doesn’t make any sense. What about other solutions, take one away and have two? Arguably the demographics and moving patterns of the city have changed over the years, and the tax payers are, well taxed to say the least.
If the schools are moved from the neighborhoods they are located, then the neighborhoods will take a hit. Instead of a bustling school with kids running through there all day, there will reign a supreme emptiness instead. In the case of the oldest high school, now branded out-moded and non-feasible, a building that was once a source of pride, the first site of the university here, may be reduced to a pile of bricks. Progress it is, in a place where we have torn down what few historical buildings that we had.
I’m not sure what the solution should be, but there must be one that doesn’t wipe away all the history and create something new, monstrous, looming large in the distance, yet a place nobody wants to touch: Kafkaesque. In the end, it seems fitting to go with two new schools, with the same old names, and the third one becomes the career center, in its same location so that former students can still visit, have homecomings and still be a part of what once was by having a physical school. Which is more than the former Booker T. Washington students have now, having to make do with an alumni room in an apartment complex. We need to be sure we are progressing with progress.