Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

OPINION: Failed Referendum a missed opportunity

The Knight Crier
Headlines from 2024 mirror headlines from 1971, when an updated high school was denied once again.

North Penn School District has just held a referendum that would have transformed the existing high school into a state-of-the-art facility. But this referendum was defeated, largely on the premise that a tax-raise would not benefit the community. 

In 1964 Japan had just opened what we now know as the world’s best high-speed rail line, the Shinkansen. Though its initial budget was $80 million USD, upon completion, spending was $160 million, over double the expected number.

This overstep in budget was a contentious matter at the time, but the agreement to develop high-speed rail was a unilaterally popular step in Japan. Immediately following construction, the Shinkansen was an incredible achievement carrying 100 million passengers; a decade in, it had provided over 1 billion passengers with quick commutes across Japan.

Japan’s journey in developing high-speed rail provides meaningful insight into the current circumstances in the North Penn School District.

Voters decided against a referendum that would see building renovations for the high school on a large scale: a vote of “no” would mean minor renovations leaving the aging building mostly in tact with the same footprint and amenities, and a vote of “yes” would mean a transformative restructuring of the building, creating a more modern high school. 

The vote “no” means a marginal amount more in taxes, the vote “yes” would have meant about $165 to $220 dollars more annually, averaging to $18 dollars a month.

In 1964, the Japanese people were not building a high school, they were building something much bigger; they too had to endure increases in taxes if they were to see their project finished at its peak form. The Japanese people resolved that if they were to build the project, they would do it right, deciding that some amount of higher taxes was best for the greater good if it could provide accessible and efficient transportation for the public. 

Our community has decided the opposite in a situation that is not the same but similar. We have decided that the equivalent of a burden of $18 additional dollars a month is too heavy, and not worth a better education and school experience for our students. We have decided that the greater good for students in our community should be put on hold and that the small, personal monetary gain is more meaningful. While citing finances, it is worth noting that Penndale’s, now-needed, renovation, along with the high school renovation, will likely amount to what the referendum was seeking. 

According to the U.S. Dept of Education, the average school building in the U.S. is 42 years old, with a construction date of 1982. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that any building over 40 years begins to deteriorate rapidly; they further state that one-fourth of the nation’s schools are in need of extensive repair or replacement, and that half have significant problems regarding indoor air quality. 

North Penn High School, as of this year, will be 53 years old, with a construction date of 1971. Students who live in the age of artificial intelligence continue to go to school in a building built when we first landed on the moon. 

The building’s disrepair is apparent. Whether it be leaky ceilings, inefficient heating and cooling, bathrooms void of mirrors and sometimes toilets, or flickering lights across various rooms, among a variety of other glaring problems, students are well aware of the issues that plague our building. 

Even these issues though do not cover things in a sufficient scope. The dated design of the building is itself detrimental. The student body is large, and the narrow hallways cannot accommodate this population, presenting a similar scene to Los Angeles traffic. The hallways are void of windows entirely, and many rooms don’t have windows at all, and if they do, they resemble prison windows that don’t open. 90% of the school has little to no venues for natural light, all while various studies have shown how crucial natural light is for sleep and circadian rhythms as well as daily performance in academics. And the remaining 10% resides in the main lobby leading into the building. Students come to school in the dark and leave as the sun begins to set, seeing as little light as possible. 

The renovations that will take place as a result of the “no” vote to the referendum will be minimal. The layout of the building, the general appearance and functionality, the lack of space, the insufficient facilities that are already overbooked, and the lack of light will all remain existing problems. The opportunity to fix all of these problems and the opportunity to open the windows for new possibilities in a state-of-the-art facility has been crushed. As students in neighboring counties and districts enjoy the ability to experience new buildings and architecture most conducive to learning, North Penn students will continue a drab existence in a school from a bygone era. 

It is saddening to conclude that the North Penn community has been short-sighted, and they have favored short-term benefits. Over the next few years, families in the community will have a few hundred dollars saved each year. They will be freed from having to pay what would have been just under a dollar a day for a better education for their children and other children in the community. 

In the long-term, the building will continue to have a plethora of problems, and as a result, North Penn’s student performance will suffer. These issues will persist, and they will only cost exponentially more in the future. If a North Penn re-imagined was too expensive now, then when will it be viable? 

In a Knight Crier-held debate in October of 2023, Board Member Ms. Kunbi Rudnick encapsulated an essential tenet of society that we have chosen to ignore, “Society thrives when all people plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit under.” For North Penn, our trees remain unplanted, and our future uncertain.

View Comments (2)

Comments (2)

All The Knight Crier Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • W

    Willa MaglandFeb 2, 2024 at 3:32 pm

    This essentially sums up all my thoughts and feelings regarding the referendum. Thank you, Vedanth, I wish you had written this before the vote! One thing we can celebrate, out of all of this, is the ADA accessibility we will get, despite the lack of larger renovations.

  • G

    Greg FarvoFeb 1, 2024 at 8:25 pm

    Honestly, it is this type of one-sided, opponent-shaming writing that led to the “No” vote on the referendum. Genuine concerns about overspending in the proposed re-imagining were ignored.

    For example, the school board’s own research showed that spending money on sports facilities had minimal impact on student test scores, but the project included multiple athletics-related line items that were significant enough to be touted in official marketing materials. Why couldn’t the referendum and accompanying renovations be focused on performance-related items?

    These concerns were met with logic fallacies such as “think of the children!” Additionally, proponents used the same shaming language as this article, calling anyone who had concerns over their individual ability to pay $18/month selfish. (I thought it was only $14.50; weird that it went up already!)

    If you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food, water and shelter are all more important than education. At a time when many people are facing challenges to their ability to provide these things for their family, it should come as no surprise that they saw the proposed tax increase as another obstacle to their ability to survive.

    The school board has a responsibility to provide education for the students of this district within the constraints of the law. Laws that were passed to balance the needs for education with the need for survival. There are plenty of options they could and should consider other than the only two presented to the voters.

    I’ll even provide one for free: no one needs artificial turf for the baseball and softball fields. Generations of professional baseball players grew up playing on grass, dirt, and asphalt. That alone will save $2 to $4 million — a price that would have to be paid every 8 to 10 years.

    I’m willing to bet my $18 there’s plenty of similar, non-academic-performance impacting items that could be removed from the renovation to focus on those important items mentioned in this article.