While neighbors and local parents are still divided over designs for the new Patrick Henry School, a plea from school principal Ingrid Bynum helped move the Planning Commission to support the School Board’s plans for the facility at its Dec. 6 meeting.
While parents and faculty at Patrick Henry support option A.1 for the school, which has separate entrances to the school for buses and for other vehicles, local residents supported option C.1, which keeps all traffic to and from the school on Taney Avenue and away from the smaller, residential N. Latham Street. Though opinions within the group varied, the Patrick Henry Advisory Group agreed in an April meeting to recommend option C.1. However, the School Board voted in favor of option A.1, citing safety and budgetary concerns.
“This design is what [parents] have chosen to best help achieve their dreams, their hopes, and the best wishes for their children. This [design] means my kids will have a safe place to be dropped off.” — Patrick Henry Principal Ingrid Bynum
At the Dec. 6 meeting, Planning Commission Chair Mary Lyman said she’d kept a tally of how many speakers were in favor of C.1 and A.1 and said it was split right down the middle. However, while Lyman said she understood the concerns of the parents, she and other members of the commission said Bynum’s recommendation of the A.1 design carried a lot of weight. Bynum emphasized that the three-level design of A.1 helped keep the three developmental stages attending Patrick Henry separate. According to Bynum, keeping the bus entrance separate from the walking and drop-off entrance helps keep the students safer.
“Our parents want safety and a sound instructional program,” said Bynum. “This design is what they have chosen to best help achieve their dreams, their hopes, and the best wishes for their children. This [design] means my kids will have a safe place to be dropped off.”
While public speakers brought up the controversy over the School Board’s rejection of the advisory group’s recommendation, Commissioner Maria Wasowski said that the School Board is never bound to follow the recommendation of an advisory group.
“The city bends over backwards to be open with the public,” said Wasowski. “Advisory groups … come up with recommendations, it does not make a definitive decision. As we heard tonight, there isn’t always consensus. This is a way of having a discussion … There is a public good in having a school that is functional, safe, and clean that can accommodate the kids that it needs to. Change is difficult for a community and there are a lot of considerations, but the argument made for this layout is very persuasive and the design works well with the housing and apartment buildings around it.”
The Patrick Henry design was approved in a 7-0 vote.