When Riverside students heard that Mackenzie Scott donated $18 million to Durham Public Schools, they came up with a million ways to use the money to enhance our education.
As kids in every classroom discussed the possibilities, one idea came up more than the others: infrastructure.
Let’s face it, the DPS schools are outdated and falling apart.
One of my first conversations about Riverside ended with the remark, “Oh, the school that looks like a prison?” Known for its bland and broken exterior, dilapidated bathrooms, and messed up heating and A/C systems, Riverside could use some work.
For example, rebuilding bathroom stalls, updating ventilation, fixing heating and cooling systems, and renovating for appearance could all help increase achievement by improving the learning environment. Right now, it feels like people just don’t care about the education system and our schools. Problems go constantly ignored, and opportunities available to students seem too few. The long-term solution would be for the state government to step up and care about its youth. There are plans to fund the schools of North Carolina, but it’s not clear if lawmakers will act on them. Fixing infrastructure would only be a start to bettering our schools as a whole.
Northern High and Durham School of the Arts are getting completely new schools on new campuses. The bond that Durham residents voted for in November will fund that construction. For most other schools, too, new construction would be much-needed and exciting. There are 55 DPS schools, with varying amounts of students each, and around 32,000 students across the entire district. Whether divided equally or based on the student population, $18 million would disappear fast. Investing in buildings themselves, in the bones of schools, would benefit everyone inside them.
If the building is the bones of a school, how can students be expected to perform adequately and how can programs thrive without a good building? Investing into school infrastructure would set the standard for learning expectations.
For students and staff, much of our lives take place within school. It is where we work, learn, eat, and socialize. Walking into a comfortable school every morning would both inspire students to do their best and help them focus on schoolwork. For example, some classrooms’ temperatures are so hot or cold as to be distracting or uncomfortable to students trying to learn. Good infrastructure improves quality of life, community connection, and demonstrates progress.Many things make up a great school. When I think about concepts and ideals like safety and security, academic excellence, dominant athletics, and opportunities for creativity and enrichment, I imagine a Utopian school with happy people. In my mind, I see a nice building, not bathrooms with shattered mirrors and broken toilets, classrooms that are too hot or too cold, and dirty white floors.
Investing in an aesthetically pleasing and functioning building will give room for better things to come to the school. Maybe people would actually care about the education of our youth if the district looked the part.
This op-ed was previously published by Indy Week