What’s Best for Brunson?

On Monday, February 25, Superintendent Emory and Brunson principal Jeff Faullin met with parents and neighbors to discuss plans to build a new school for Brunson Elementary. Dr. Emory announced that the district was choosing between four parcels of land for purchase. Specific locations were not revealed so as not to affect market price, but it was disclosed that some of these locations were contiguous to Brunson’s zone, residing close to but just outside the current boundary. She said she hoped to return in about 60 days to reveal a site map for the new Brunson.

While our school district is looking to buy land for a new Brunson, it should also consider the suitable sites on school-owned land close to its current campus. Two options at Wiley and one on the hillside next to RJR Auditorium were identified in April 2011. All are still available. Architectural drawings can be seen here.

A new Brunson on a campus in its feeder pattern would demonstrate investment in a reliable residential K-12 path in one of the most organically diverse districts in the county.

It is important that these sites be presented alongside the ones being considered for purchase, if only because the money saved could be carried forward to other bond projects. If Wiley land is being reserved for a Reynolds stadium, that project needs to be presented openly and consensus building solutions explored publicly so families can understand the benefits balanced against the opportunity cost to Brunson and related impact on Wiley.

When asked about the Wiley site, Dr. Emory quickly dismissed it as impossible due to traffic. But planners in 2011 worked out a clear access route.  What has changed since then? The upcoming Wiley gym demolition offers a wealth of possibilities, presumably more than ever.

Now is the time to examine all options – while Wiley and Brunson both enter the design phase. The timing could not be more perfect.

UPDATE made at 5 p.m. to include two additional statements made by Dr. Emory, as noted by a Brunson parent who attended Monday night:

The School District “has made promises to people.” 

The fact that Brunson is on the 2016 bond is a clearly stated promise to taxpayers. Furthermore, during previous discussions in 2011, the Board publicly promised that nothing would be done to the Wiley site so it could be retained as an option to rebuild Brunson, yet plans for the Wiley addition show the Wiley gym being moved to accommodate a stadium with room to expand.

When rejecting the question of why the Wiley site was not one of the four in consideration, Dr. Emory stated that she is “opposed to wedging a project” onto the small site and for “construction requiring considerable land regrading and site work” as well as concerns about congestion in the area.

If Dr. Emory and the district oppose considerable site work at Wiley and are understandably concerned about congestion and traffic on Northwest Blvd, they should likewise have rejected plans for a stadium that will require extensive soil excavation to remove the hill side along Northwest; a costly water remediation system to remove water from the site; and an AstroTurf field which will leach lead and contaminants into the creek and surrounding park area. This only raises concerns surrounding the push to start construction early at Wiley gym, the relocation of which is clearly meant to accommodate a stadium.

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