To the Editor:
On April 4th, the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) will make a final decision on next year’s town budget. The most closely watched aspect is how much it will allocate to desperately needed repairs for our aging schools. If the past is any indication, the answer will be not nearly enough. And once again, Greenwich Republicans will have denied our children the safe, accessible, 21st century buildings they deserve.
The Greenwich Democratic Town Committee believes that our schools should be the highest priority for our town – more important than a new ice-skating rink or refurbished Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. In addition to giving our children what they deserve, quality public schools keep property values high. They’re a major reason families choose one town over another.
Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled BET is fixated on funding only one major school project at a time. This short-sightedness costs all of us more in the long run.
We paid more when Hamilton Avenue School had to be torn down and rebuilt, because BET Republicans wouldn’t set aside money to maintain and repair a badly leaking roof. We paid more when the ceiling at North Mianus School collapsed – fortunately school was not in session. And we avoided a crisis when the Board of Education (BOE) funded an engineering study of Central Middle School that the Republicans on the BET refused to fund. Thankfully the BOE found federal money to pay for the study, because the school was in such bad shape it needed to be condemned and rebuilt. And we’re seeing it again, with BET Republicans refusing to provide what the BOE has requested for new construction and renovations, forcing them back to the drawing board to revise projects to fall in line.
Cost-cutting pressure by BET Republicans compromises school design, and further, proposals by the Republican Town Committee risk negatively impacting teaching models that have been successfully used for decades. How shameful would it be to welcome 8th graders to a brand new Central Middle School in the fall of 2026, then tell them in the spring that they must choose only one guest to attend their graduation because the Republican BET would not pay for enough seats in the school auditorium?
Speaking of shameful, eighty percent of our schools are not ADA compliant. Greenwich has already been the subject of an Office of Civil Rights complaint. Students at Old Greenwich School must choose between navigating flights of stairs on crutches or staying home while they recover from an injury. Aside from being short-sighted from a risk management standpoint, failing to make our schools accessible sends the wrong message about who we are as a town. As Democrats, we stand for inclusivity, and our schools should reflect our values.
And don’t get fooled by a makeshift “plan” concocted by five BET Republicans at the 11th hour. That plan does not address all of the Old Greenwich School issues and does not have backing from the community or the BOE. Both Central Middle School and Old Greenwich School urgently need major funding this budget cycle. Failing to provide it would be malfeasance. The dismal state of the places where we send our children to learn can no longer be ignored or tolerated. Greenwich Democrats wholeheartedly support moving forward on both of those projects with the scope approved by the Board of Education. It’s time for our town to invest in our students.
Angland is the chair of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee