Remember the old shell game when no matter how many times the shell was moved you knew under which shell the pea was hidden, only to find out you had been fooled?
Ever go to a movie and wonder why the hell you wasted your money watching it?
Last evening myself and 50 others who attending the public forum held at the Laurel Middle School to discuss the fate of that building must have reacted the same because their were no answers, just smiles, and frequent “I feel your pain” comments by Laurel Superintendent John Elwald.
Had I known Elwald was interviewed by channel 47 prior to the meeting, asked the question if their was any way he would change his mind about demolishing the former high school which he answered with a smile, “NO”, I would have stayed home.
He did admit later he recommended to the board and they voted 5-0 to demolish the school.
Elwald started his presentation saying the voters rejected the first referendum because THEY did NOT want the former high school. To which I corrected him saying it failed because people did NOT want the football field. The second referendum was in two parts; to build the schools and to build a new football stadium. The referendum passed by 12 votes, the football stadium failed. I reminded him majority rules, so why did they build the field? A returned smile and an affirmative smile, but no answer.
Later we learned the reason the former high school couldn’t be brought up to code was the cost; $8 million dollars and they had only $5 million, which prompted an answer to that dilemma from my oldest son Chris, who said, “Don’t build the football stadium, use that $3 million on the school and you have your $8 million. More smiles, no answer.
The crowd was small but the questions were stinging, to the point, but no answers; “I don’t know, but I will get back to you” were the answers to most questions from Elwald. Based on past his past history, he won’t get back.
Kendall Jones Laurel’s number one historian asked; “The DuPont’s built 26 schools during the ’20’s similar to the Laurel School. Only one, Milford is not standing. What have the other schools done to keep their schools standing that we could do in Laurel?” Another good question said Elwald, still no solid answer except from the building superintendent who claimed he had not checked.
Retired school teacher Wendy Dolby wondered why these problems were not researched and brought to the attention of the voters before the referendums. Another good question, no answer from Elwald.
When the subject came up about moving administration to North Laurel instead of the ’21 building as previously stated in the first referendum, Donna Reed who served on many committees during the first referendum, stated the state said it was too expensive to rehab the NL school based on the states formula and wanted to know how come suddenly the NL school was good enough to rehab, but the ’21 building was not. No answer, just a comment, “Good question”, and a comment from maintenance that that school was in ‘the best condition of all the schools’??????
David Horsey, a converted proponent of both referendum found out when he came into the building and spoke with a board member that this meeting was fruitless, the decision to demolish had been made, stated if he had known that, he would have stayed home. He said had he known what the school was going to do with the referendum money, he would have gotten enough votes, (the second referendum passed by only 12 votes) to defeat it. He and many more said it would be a cold day in Hades before they would support another referendum, after Elwald said the school would need a referendum for operating expenses. I believe you could take that statement to the bank.
A form was given to the participants with three options for the administration to consider; demolish the school, keep the façade, or keep the ’21 building. I don’ why they wasted the paper because the board and supt. have set their path; build a football stadium the majority of the voters voted against and demolish the ’21 building.
It is the opinion of this writer Mr. Elwald is just passing through. This building project is a resume builder to show how large a complex he oversaw and then he’s going to another higher paying position. And Laurel will be left with the debt, many scars and a divided community.
Only two of the 5 board members had the courage to show; Board President Linda Wintjen, and Brent Nichols.
If you have time, check the schools website and you’ll find the advertisement for the referendum which clearly states monies to be used to selective remodel the “21 building.