Editorial: School — A message from the dark ages

Posted 2/13/18

In much the same way that seven aging Tiverton plows conked out in unison during the blizzard, it was as though 67-year-old Westport High School conspired to send a message at last week’s special …

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Editorial: School — A message from the dark ages

Posted

In much the same way that seven aging Tiverton plows conked out in unison during the blizzard, it was as though 67-year-old Westport High School conspired to send a message at last week’s special town meeting.

With a crowd over 1,000 overwhelming the 840-capacity high school auditorium, late-arrivals were ushered to the adjoining cafeteria. They could watch, listen and vote there, was the idea.

Simple enough in today’s wired and wi-fi’d — schools. Flick a switch and, presto, virtual town meeting loud and clear.

Not in this building.

As the audience grew restive, school technicians bustled about with spools of cable, portable speakers and cell phones. An endless chorus of “testing, testing, 1, 2, 3” drew no reply.

It will be a few minutes, thanks for your patience, harried Town Moderator assured the crowd.

Just seven minutes more, he said much later.

That fix didn’t work either, he next announced — it will be another half hour.

A few more fits and starts later, there was sound and the meeting began. It was scarcely the ideal town meeting for those in the cafeteria — communications between moderator and assistant were by cell phone. One call went to voice mail as audience members groaned.

This was the school demonstrating to all one small part of what teachers and students there deal with daily.

And that doesn’t cut it in today’s interconnected world. In a real school, links to the the next room, the outside world are instant and easy. Fiddling with spools of cable, coping with dead spots and internet interruptions are a waste of learning time and opportunities that students can ill afford.

The middle school is poisoned, and patchwork won’t fix what ails the high school.

Patient meeting-goers did the right thing by the next generations of youngsters when they approved that new school next week. May voters do the same at the polls on February 27.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.