Add my support to previous property tax payers who question the need and expense for another addition at Benn El, the second addition in three years. The recent construction estimates range from $3.3 million to $6 million for a project originally guestimated to cost $2.5 million for five classrooms and other space.
Last I heard, even with our sixth grades successfully integrated into the middle school there are still some available classrooms. In this era of stagnant wages, few well paying local jobs unless one is a professional, a large retirement population on low fixed incomes, high rent, a high population on public assistance, and school directors who seem oblivious to these facts it seems obvious that "outside the box" thinking is demanded.
When you consider the very large budget increases meaning tax increases that will be voted on next month for not only the school systems but the Town of Bennington. I believe we have reached our "perfect storm" scenario for the property tax payers of Bennington.
Some suggestions perhaps considered but not seriously enough I would offer are to send the fifth grades to the middle school. If the rooms are available or can be made available lets do it.
The average class size in Vermont is between 18 and 20 children. Bennington's average class size in elementary school I read is between 15 and 16, plus many classes have para-professionals to help out. Can't the teachers handle a few more?
We know what is on the future drawing board. Molly Stark school is over-burdened and has always lacked a gym. Benn El is nearly 60 years old. In the next 20 years, I guarantee, the school planners are envisioning a brand new single elementary facility to replace dated structures. In recent years this has been reported by the press.
Bennington is not a wealthy enclave. We are a working class town. Get "out of the box" folks. Join the reality that Bennington is.