Larry Hopkins

Why did Readsboro School Board relax its safety standards?

As a taxpayer and former school board member, I have concerns with a recent vote taken by our school board.

Just over a year ago the board authorized applying a window safety tint throughout the school that serves many positive purposes. For safety, the tint would not allow anyone to see in through the windows and windows would not shatter if broken. It would also keep heat in/cold out in the winter and cool in/heat out in the summer for energy efficiency benefits. Several rooms on the front side of the building, at special times of the year would have to put cardboard in the windows and often shuffle seating in the classroom due to the glaring sun and intense heat generated by the windows. This was all resolved for less than a $700 investment.

Recently, a handful of parents and two board members felt the tint should be removed as it hindered students abilities to learn as it did not allow the benefit of all natural sunlight into the rooms. They also claimed it created a bad health situation as students got headaches and missed school.

When the issue was being discussed at their April 14 meeting, the board was asked what type of research they had that would substantiate a change and how would they ensure safety was maintained. After repeatedly avoiding the question, it was finally said, "Research indicates students will learn better if they can see a squirrel go up and down a tree.


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" That was it for the justification?! They later added they would install a curtain that could be open and closed as needed. When asked who would be the sacrificial lamb asked to get up and close the curtain if an intruder was standing at the window, they had no reply, and acted as though that could never happen. The most important thing was to just get that vote over and done with and get on to something else.

I took it upon myself to investigate the savings on fuel oil for the past winter. I asked numerous people to approximate how much more they spent this winter than a normal winter for heating. The range was anywhere from 33 percent to 60 percent more. (My personal increase was 50 percent.) I then called the fuel supplier and found out where the school stood for the year. The tanks were filled on April 16 and there was still 150 gallons left on the pre-buy which translates into only using 97.5 percent of the allotment. (Hmmmm, everyone used 33-60 percent more except the school used 2.5 percent less.) No doubt this was the direct result of the tint’s insulating qualities.

Attendance at the school was as average as any other year, thus dispelling any health issue claims. The NECAP scores showed improvements -- obviously there was no negative impact on learning -- and most likely the tint saved the taxpayers between $8,000 to $12,000 in extra heating bills.

When I questioned this in an email, I was told "The vote’s over, move on."

To summarize, the school board, against the advice and recommendations of its superintendent, took a major step backwards in its safety program for its students and also showed no consideration for the taxpayers by refusing to recognize the fuel oil savings, that will now be lost, in its discussion.

Why would something that was so obviously effective for both safety and energy efficiency reasons, be thrown aside without more justification than "the squirrel going up and down a tree" findings?

Then it finally hit me. This vote was not done with educational or taxpayer’s considerations in mind at all. It was politically motivated as a reward for a handful of people for prior political support.

It’s unfortunate the safety of the students is jeopardized because the board looked at this as a political issue rather than one of student safety.

Larry Hopkins is a resident of Readsboro.