2015-05-22 / Letters

The time is now to for a new, safer high school

To the editor:

Kennebunk High School’s mission is to provide “a varied and rigorous academic program.” The statement goes on to say that this will be provided “within a safe and caring environment.”

As the principal of KHS, I am proud to say that we are fulfilling this mission in a number of ways. Our graduation rate of 95.81 percent is well above the state average; 88 percent of the Class of 2014 planned to attend post-secondary education and 22 students will graduate in June as the first STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) scholars.

Seventy-six percent of the 2014 graduates had taken an Advanced Placement/IB or early-college class prior to graduation. The apprenticeship and alternative education programs continue to thrive, and 60 KHS students attend vocational classes this year at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology or Portland Arts and Technology High School

However, as the principal of Kennebunk High School, I am concerned about the part of the mission statement that calls for a safe environment.

Some, but not all, of the challenges that we face on a daily basis include: 57 outside doors, the lack of a clearly defined main entrance, a driveway down the center of the building, nine portables without running water or bathroom facilities, an archaic heating system that is not always functional, 95 percent of classrooms below the minimum size recommended by the Dept. of Education, stairwells that are too narrow, and science labs that are 35 years old or older.

Handicapped accessibility does not meet the current ADA requirements in some portions of the school and, given the traffic pattern before and after school, it is nothing short of a miracle that we have not had a tragic accident.

As the co-chair of the accreditation process at Kennebunk High School in 1995 and again 10 years later, I updated the visiting New England Association of Schools and Colleges on renovation plans.

Each time, their report back to us would include commendations based on our curriculum and the positive climate within the building, but it would also include a list of facility needs that needed to be addressed with the “proposed” renovations.

It is now time for us to go through the accreditation process once again.

Clearly, our facilities do not support our 21st century programs.

The result could be a building that is put on probation, which would be an embarrassment to the community and an insult to the dedicated faculty, staff and students of Kennebunk High School.

As a taxpayer and an educator, I can tell you that the time is now.

With interest rates at 2.5 percent for the first $40 million, 3.5 percent for the remaining balance and the total renovation cost for three buildings at $56.5 million, there will never be a better time.

As a long-time member of the Kennebunk High School Building Committee, I can assure you that this plan is based on needs, not wants.

And, as the principal, I can tell you that the time is long overdue. The students of KHS deserve a safe and handicapped accessible building.

Please vote on June 9.

Susan Cressey
Kennebunk

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