Whittemore school rebuilding situation goes from bad to worse

Borderline has warned that problems with the Whittemore reconstruction process might lead to delays, and was greeted by resounding silence. No comments, no reaction -- perhaps because readers thought I was exaggerating the issue.

But now it looks like the South Side kids in this part of Waltham are being set up for an extra year in an inferior temporary facility, and more pain when they finally get their new school. The News Tribune reports that there was only one bid for the Whittemore reconstruction, and it came in at $5 million over budget. It's been rejected by the city. Now David King, chairman of the School Building Committee, realizes that there's a "problem of what to do next."

I'll say. Moreover, King's proposed solution to the problem is in itself a problem: Cut corners! I quote from the text of the News-Tribune article:
King described this as a process where costs could be cut without damaging the design of the building.

"The thought was that we could try to get some savings through value engineering without cheapening the building itself," King said.

"We agreed to not make Whittemore inferior and the goal is to make it comparable to other new schools," McCarthy said.

For example, King said mechanical rooftop units could be built with aluminum instead of steel. "We’re not sure if that’s appropriate, and some people probably feel it isn’t, but there could be substantial savings," he said.
Excuse me? The pols "agreed to not make Whittemore inferior" yet you're talking about cutting millions of dollars worth of corners? We got a little logic problem here, buddy. Or you're just blowing smoke.

The Whittemore community has a lot of other things to deal with besides the rebuilding issue, including lagging MCAS scores. The way things are shaping up, the school rebuilding project is going to be a lose-lose situation for the kids. The failure of the bidding process means the planned Sept. 2008 reopening of Whittemore is almost certainly going to be pushed into the future. How far remains to be seen. And, while the kids may be coming back to a new school, it will be inferior to what kids elsewhere in Waltham have received under the city-wide elementary school rebuilding plan.

One other thing that Borderline would like to say about this News Tribune article: The reporter really let residents down by not interviewing a single Whittemore parent. It's all about the spin put out by city officials. I expect this from the Globe (see Sloppy Reporting on Waltham Development), and am really disappointed to see this trend creeping into the News-Tribune. Don't forget your readers, Trib! For every minute you spend talking with or quoting the pols, you should spend at least one minute talking with the people impacted by their schemes.

Other Borderline rants about the Whittemore school:

What's up with Whittemore?

Whittemore budget problems, and a warning for Newton

Another reason to be worried about Whittemore

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Blogger Historyball said...

I have the same concerns, and my reaction to this article was almost identical.

Thanks for the terrific post!

11:33 AM  

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