Is $100,000,000 too much to spend on Madison schools for repair and maintenance over the next ten years?
Recently, the three Boards of Madison have, based on a suggestion from the Board of Finance, created a Tri-Board School Facilities Working Group composed of two representatives from each Board: Selectmen, Finance, and Education. The purpose of this working group is to work collaboratively across the three primary Boards to identify additional options for the BOE beyond the proposed 10+ year capital maintenance plan currently with an estimated cost of one hundred million dollars. These additional options would provide potential solutions to the issue of aging school facilities and the associated mounting maintenance and safety/security projects.
The goal of the working group is to identify, for public consideration, three to four options that are fiscally responsible, accommodate long-term enrollment trends, and consider the needs of the 21st century learning environment. Fiscal responsibility requires not only meeting the facility needs for continuing to provide a top-quality education but also recognizing the need to fund other town facility projects. Options must be sensitive to the fact that roughly 95% of town revenues are derived from property taxes which depend on property values.
Residents of Madison have for many years benefited from having a highly regarded school district. The high quality of education provided by our school programs has produced good citizens for our community and made Madison attractive to homebuyers.
The key elements of a good learning program are the curriculum and the educational professionals who implement it. One look at the curriculum documents on our district website illustrates an unparalleled instructional program that prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century. Our district vision focuses on critical thinking, problem solving, and the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly global and technologically advanced society. On the most recent SAT our district is without peer in the region. In fact, Madison students performed in the top 10 districts in the entire state on the SAT. Among the most recent graduating class, nearly 70% of applications to highly competitive colleges and universities were accepted. One in four were accepted to the most competitive colleges.
While teachers and curriculum are the key elements, facilities do matter. Well-lighted schools with good air quality, controlled climate, and appropriate acoustics facilitate the work of our educational professionals. Equally important are safe and developmentally appropriate play spaces, as academic and social-emotional learning are inextricably linked. Appropriate spaces for unstructured play support the education of the whole child.
The Tri-Board School Facilities Working Group holds regular public meetings and encourages public participation and engagement. The working group has already received one proposal from a community group of parents and we welcome others. The recent defeat of the referendum aimed at meeting facility needs through the construction of new schools indicates the importance of keeping the community informed of the facts and the rationale of any presented option. The Board of Education believes that as a community we can work together to find the right solution for our schools and our town.