Old school


Coming on the heels of the great news that the Greenwood School would at long last be getting a new roof came the even better news that the 123-year-old structure would not support solar panels on the new roof.

There goes the planet.

These days, it’s not enough just to make something better. Every new project has to be “green” too, especially if it comes with state and/or federal funding.

The downtown revitalization/infrastructure project currently in the design stage must include bike lanes or no $26 million will be forthcoming from the state and federal governments.

And you can bet that the new high school that we’re going to build is going to have a roof made entirely of solar panels, at untold added cost to the taxpayers. But what’s an extra few hundred thousand dollars when the planet is at stake? Your as yet unborn great-grandchildren will thank you — before they are incinerated into a pile of ash because we didn’t also put solar on the Greenwood School.

I assume that we’re going to insist that the workers on all of these projects walk or ride bicycles to the job sites. I’m sure it won’t be a problem for all the carpenters, electrician and plumbers. It will certainly eliminate the problem of where all these workers are going to park. We’ll just install a few more bike racks.

On second thought, we don’t even insist that high school students walk or bike to school. Instead, students with licenses drive their parents’ Lexus to school. Those not yet old enough to drive get dropped off and picked up by mommy or daddy every day. I wonder what that carbon footprint looks like. These are the same kids who supposedly care very deeply about the planet. We may have to schedule a few remedial showings of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Back in 1897, when they built the Greenwood School for $16,500, their idea of solar power was to make sure that “The school rooms all have a south exposure.” (Could we even put solar on the roof today for $16,500?)

A year earlier, the report of the Greenwood School Building Committee concluded that “The heating will probably be by furnaces,” which back then and through at least the 1950s meant coal.

That’s not the only way that times have changed.

The full report of the seven-member committee assigned to “procure plans and estimates for a school house in Greenwood” consisted of 175 words – less than one page in the 1896 Town Report. No fancy consultants were retained to conduct expensive feasibility studies. The five bids received were dealt with by he citizen committee themselves.

Fast forward to 2019. The town appropriated $102,000 for a consulting firm to produce a 135-page report and schematic design just to replace the roof.

I guess you get what you pay for.

The consultant’s estimate of the full cost to replace the roof is $932,342.

Built in the 19th century, the Greenwood is the very definition of “old school” and is not about to accept solar panels on its roof.

And who can blame it?

The fact that the red brick schoolhouse built in 1897 at a cost of $16,500 is still standing and educating students ought to be enough.

I’ve never been prouder of my alma mater. The Greenwood School doesn’t owe the town a thing.

[This column originally appeared in the January 16, 2020 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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