I coached Kindergarten through second grade soccer at Hyde Park Elementary school this past autumn. The K-2 team, however, didn’t have any uniforms, but I wasn’t about to send my kids out on the field against our neighboring towns without some semblance of a uniform. With the help of Hyde Park’s PE teacher, Mr. Clough, we outfitted our youngsters, and the kids loved having matching “uniforms” with their school name across their chests: Hyde Park Allstars.
The reason I pushed to have them wear something was simple. School spirit. Pride, not only in their school, but in themselves. This was their first experience in a game and on a field playing together as a team. As a coach, and in good conscience, I couldn’t send them out on the field without a uniform. What would that have told them? That they weren’t really a soccer team? The older kids can have uniforms, but not you? That they weren’t worth having a uniform? We didn’t value them enough to buy them shirts? How could they take pride in themselves and each other as a team if we didn’t even think them worthy of uniforms?
As this debate over the building project for the Hyde Park Elementary School heats up, it reminds me of my team. Setting aside the facts that the current building is dangerous to our children. That the building is literally crumbling, erupting, and burning around them. That the conditions are so poor that it is no longer conducive to learning. That the facility cannot hold the number of students and staff currently, and our population is projected to grow for the foreseeable future. Putting aside all these reasons as to why a renovation and improved space is desperately needed and setting aside the fact that the town has been kicking this can down the road since they refused to build the 1951 wing appropriately and to last by using suitable materials and hiring professional contractors. Besides all of these reasons, the one I keep coming back to is, “what does it tell our children, all of our children of Hyde Park now and in the future, that we think of them?”
Let me tell you what it says.
It says, “We value an extra $600 or $1200 dollars a year more than your safety and well being.” It says, “We value the cost of a large pepperoni pizza a week more than you having a learning environment with functioning heat during the Vermont winters.” It says, “We value money, any amount of money, over your well being and education.”
That’s what it says. Try and spin it how ever you like, but as this debate unfolds the argument against building a school that is safe and as conducive to learning as we can possibly make, comes down to how much money people are willing to part with. How little can we spend and get away with? What’s the least we can do for our town’s students? That’s what I am hearing.
The school structure is a shambles because the town of Hyde Park continues to put their wallets before their children. When I was growing up, my parents did everything in their power to make sure that I had the best education and opportunities available to me. They have spent their whole lives to make sure I, my brothers, and their grandchildren have a better than life than they did. My grandparents did the same for my parents. Without hesitation or a second thought.
I ask you, the citizens of Hyde Park, are you doing everything you can for your children? For the children in the school now, or who will pass through it over the course of the next century? My children may never get the use of a new facility, but it is my duty – and privilege – to help make sure that the children of this town have the best education and opportunities I can make available to them. I am proud to contribute to building a school the town and its residents can be proud of for the next century. It’s what my parents did for me, what my grandparents did for them, and what we all should be doing now for these children.