Bancroft replacement plan is best option for town

Editor, Townsman:

In just under three weeks, Andover voters will have the opportunity to make a decision that will benefit our community for decades to come. For the last four years, groups of dedicated citizens have wrestled with the challenge of how best to replace a failing Bancroft Elementary School. To their credit, they've done that and much more.

The plan voters approved overwhelmingly at Town Meeting last month not only will replace Bancroft, it will position us to reduce the number of elementary schools in town to five by eliminating K-2 classes at Shawsheen School, a beloved but aged relic whose sky-high maintenance costs are rivaled only by Bancroft.

As good plans do, this one emerged after careful consideration of a host of alternatives that included renovating Bancroft, closing the school and adding on to other elementary schools; building a new school in another location, and even leasing or buying another building and converting it into a school. In the end, none of those added up.

What did add up is the plan we have today. It addresses our pressing building needs, ensures that the town's long-term student capacity needs are met, qualities us for maximum state reimbursement and respects the unique and historic qualities of the Bancroft neighborhood.

As a neighbor of the school, I have a vested interest in the future of the Bancroft site. I attended numerous School Committee and School Building Committee meetings, and the process I witnessed was conducted with remarkable openness and integrity. Not everyone got exactly what they wanted, and some difficult decisions had to be made. But in the end the project put forward is the best one for Andover.

Make no mistake: a vote against the project will not save taxpayers any money. Shawsheen and Bancroft schools are at the end of their useful lives, and doing nothing now will only delay the inevitable. We know what that would mean more years of costly maintenance on two outdated buildings followed, inevitably, by higher construction costs and a lower reimbursement from the state. Fiscal responsibility argues strongly for supporting the project and voting yes on Question 1 at the special election on Jan. 25.

Bill Burger

22 Stinson Road

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