When will Harding students see a new high school? If Chairwoman Sauda Baraka and her cohorts on the board get their way, it won’t be for a very long time.
That’s because after months of dragging their feet, the board is now insisting that the plans for the new Harding High School be redesigned, which according to city Facilities Director Jorge Garcia could potentially delay the project by an entire year.
The issue came up at last Tuesday’s Facilities Committee meeting, when the board was set to vote on the building design, which is commonly referred to on meeting agendas as “Phase 2.”
Rather than allow the city to present a powerpoint of the plan–which was the culmination of decisions made over the course of several years– they decided that now, after months of delaying the vote on the design plan, that it was the perfect moment to let the city know they didn’t like the way the building looked.
To give you a little background, the city had been trying to get the approval of the design plan on the board’s agenda for months. In fact, O&G’s Larry Schilling had sent emails to the board as far back as May 14 requesting “Phase 2” be added to their agenda.
It took the board until September 12 to finally add it to the Facilities Committee agenda. Not that it mattered, since the board refused to allow the plan a vote anyway.
Their initial excuse was that they didn’t want to move the project forward before the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection fully approved the Remediation Action Plan for the proposed site.
While that sounds reasonable, the truth is this: Failing to approve the building design just slows down an already excruciatingly long, bureaucratic process even further.
As Schilling explained at the Facilities Committee’s September meeting, the city can’t start building until the DEEP gives the site their seal of approval. No matter what, if the site is deemed unsafe by state officials, the school won’t be built there.
In other words, this is just the board once again using scare tactics to excuse their inaction.
Eventually it came out that Baraka did not like the design of the building, saying she met with school community members who were not fond of the facade of the building and wanted to it redesigned.
Board members also brought up concerns about the school’s footprint was designed for around 800 students, while the current Harding has 1,100 students.
That’s all great, but why spring this on the city now?