Letters to the Editor: February 12 – 18, 2015
Absolutely No Need for New High School in F.C.
I have lived in the City of Falls Church for 35 years. My son attended all City schools. I know George Mason High School as a parent, volunteer and coach, but most importantly for the issue of a new high school, as a substitute teacher from 2004-10. For most of that time Mason comprised five grades, 8 through 12. My substitute teaching assignments familiarized me thoroughly with every nook and cranny of that building, more so than most regular teachers. I therefore speak with considerable knowledge and experience when I tell you that there is absolutely no need for a new high school.
If the reason given is that it would make it more convenient for developers to have frontage on Route 7 and Haycock Road, it would be a violation of public trust. Nor is “keeping up with the Joneses” a sound or reasonable basis for public policy. City taxpayers cannot afford wants, only true and proven needs. The building would doubtless benefit from renovation/repairs. But there is no need for a $100+ million new high school.
An additional 20 – 22 or more classrooms could be created within the existing structure without the necessity of major construction:
1. Storage rooms under the science wing would yield two classrooms.
2. Move the City TV station out. It could be moved to the City-owned house in Cherry Hill Park. That would yield three classrooms or practice rooms.
3. There is a classroom at the far end of the art department that is not being used as a classroom.
4. The alternate education space would yield two classrooms. Alternate education could use trailers.
5 The culinary arts/kitchen is a classroom.
6. Since every student has a computer, there is no need for the TLC computer labs. (two classrooms).
7. Three classrooms are now used for intellectually disabled students. Those students could be relocated to the mainstream part of the building closest to the main office.
8. The auxiliary gym could be converted to at least eight or more classrooms.
Furthermore, the agora concept – combining commercial and civic functions in an undifferentiated common area – is a dangerous idea in an academic context and should be afforded no consideration.The distractions and safety risks for such young people would be enormous.
Misguided Revitalization in Mason District
The quality of life in Mason District is threatened by misguided redevelopment in its two revitalization areas. In her “A Penny for Your Thoughts” column in the January 29 Falls Church News-Press, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross called these areas a blessing, and so they may be for her. But what about the community?
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has given itself the power to amend the Comprehensive Plan to allow virtually any land use in a revitalization area if, in their view, it would advance “revitalization goals.” Gross offers the amendment for the SE Quadrant in the Bailey’s Crossroads revitalization area as an example of the benefits of the Board’s power. The amendment allows the development of a high-rise elementary school on a two-acre site on the curb of Columbia Pike in a busy commercial district with no green space for outdoor activities. Recreation would be on the roof of the garage. Intense citizen opposition to the amendment in the January 13 Board hearing argued that the site is not suitable for a school. In particular, the Comprehensive Plan states that schools should not be located in commercial areas.
But the amendment serves Gross’s purpose. The School Board wants to build a child-friendly school with green space on the five-acre Willston School site in a residential district opposite Seven Corners. But Gross wants that site for a new $125M county office building. She recommends that she keep Willston and the children use the Columbia Pike school site provided by the plan amendment. This is not the first time that the interests of our children have been sacrificed for Gross’s agenda. For years, children at Bailey’s Elementary sat in 19 trailers while the School Board asked for the Willston site. Last fall, relief of sorts was provided by opening Bailey’s Upper Elementary in a converted office building on blacktop in a commercial district on the other side of Seven Corners. The school has no gym, no auditorium, and no green space. Such are the consequences of misguided revitalization for the community. It’s Gross mismanagement.
Kudos to Beyer For Column on Climate Change
Kudos to Congressman Donald Beyer for his fine op-ed article honoring the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s warnings to Congress about the dangers of adding too much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. I’m delighted that he is working on carbon tax legislation. I hope he finds good partners on the other side of the aisle so the legislation has bipartisan support.
Since Ronald Reagan used an economic system similar to a carbon tax to price CFC’s and protect the ozone, one might think that Republicans in Congress would be willing to work on carbon tax legislation.
After all, there are several Republican Senators and Representatives who want to run for President in 2016. They need to demonstrate their concern for climate change by enacting legislation before they try to run, because no one will believe their campaign climate policy promises if they haven’t already sponsored legislation.
And a growing majority of voters, even Republican voters, want climate legislation and will be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports climate legislation. The writing is on the wall, now let’s get the legislation passed.
Morality Exists Outside Organized Religion, Too
David Brooks seems skeptical that morality can exist in the absence of organized religion (“Building Better Secularists,” News-Press, Feb. 5-11). Disregarding the fact that religious folks commit immoral acts every day, let’s examine Mr. Brooks’ main points:
Secular people “have to build their own moral philosophies.” Correct, and many have done so by exposing themselves to the long and rich history of moral philosophy that goes back further than Christianity, perhaps starting with Aristotle. Mr. Brooks seems to think that morality is only valid if presented through the shorthand of a religious text.
They “have to create their own Sabbaths.” The secular version of going to Church is called education and reflection. That process is not invalid simply because it doesn’t occur in the presence of others at the same time and place every week.
They “have to reflect on spiritual matters.” If by this Mr. Brooks means that individuals should regularly contemplate the building blocks of their moral foundation, then I would agree. It is also beneficial to reflect on why so many people have been able to carry out immoral acts in the name of religion.
They “have to fashion their own moral motivation.” Of course. This can take the form of identifying with different philosophies or writings, or simply acknowledging that mankind possesses an innate sense of right and wrong. If all that fails, simply obeying society’s laws should be enough for any rational person.
Basically, Mr. Brooks is merely listing the aspects of organized religion that have worked for him. His position that this is the only way to attain an adequate level of morality is presumptuous at best.
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