Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rothenberg School: The No Teardown Argument


First of all I applaud the efforts of the school system to actually spend the money on Rothenberg School rather than follow the "teardown/rebuild" trend so popular with most school administrators today. Having said that I am firmly against the demolition of additional properties to provide additional playground and teacher parking space.
Like it or not decisions concerning schoold tend to be fleeting in nature. Today's rebuilt urban school is tommorrows "budget cut", and while I hope for the best for Rothenberg, as someone who has consulted for a number of historic neighborhoods on preservation and saving schools projects across the United States, I know that these decisions are short term at best.

People who "choose" to live in urban neighborhoods, as a rule, are pro preservation. That is why they "choose' to live in an urban environment. Likewise teachers who "choose" to work in an urban school know what they are getting into. Walking across a street from a parking lot is a small price to pay to preserve 4 historic buildings. As for the aditional playground space, while that would be "nice", the reality is that with the increasing demand of "productivity and standards", recess and playground time is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Urban schools are not suburban schools. They are not "country clubs suburbia" with grand theatres and natatoriums. The great thing about kids who go to Urban schools do not come out of them with the sense of "entitlement" that many suburban kids do. In my opinion, that is a good thing, as Urban school kids are more "grounded in reality".

Tearing these buildings down is a short term solution and once they are torn down they are lost forever. On the other hand think of the preservation of the buildings is an educational opportunity. An opportunity to teach school children the value of historic preservation. In the future as these properties are eventually restored, they are a "living laboratory" on history and an opportunity for educators to teach kids the "value" of preservation in an urban setting.
OTR is a long term commitment and the eventual restoration and revitalization will take more than the present generation to accomplish which is why teaching the goal of preservation is critical to our children and instilling an appreciation of old buildings is important as the next generation is the best hope for the eventual restoration of OTR as a viable urban neighborhood.

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