Editor, Townsman:

There are many reasons for Andover voters to support construction of a new West Elementary and Shawsheen Preschool at Town Meeting on June 5 and at the ballot box on June 15.

Chief among these is that the new schools will allow for the type of learning experiences which our students need to thrive in the modern world, opportunities for which are extremely limited in the current outdated buildings.

Another important reason is that the investment in these new schools makes financial sense.

In addition to the numerous structural and educational deficiencies of the current schools, both are expensive to maintain and use energy much less efficiently than a modern building (by a factor of at least three).

Fortunately, the Massachusetts School Building Authority recognized these problems and will provide Andover with a grant for about 25% of the costs of constructing a new West Elementary and Shawsheen Preschool -- approximately $38 million of the $151 million construction cost -- if Andover voters approve the project.

If voters do not approve the new construction, Andover will lose the $38 million in state funding. We then will be required to continue to use both inadequate buildings to educate our students and will face increasing maintenance and energy costs.

In addition, any future building project, whether at West El or other Andover schools, likely will fall completely on the shoulders of Andover taxpayers, with the expectation that construction costs will continually increase.

By way of example, a renovation simply to bring West El up to current building code, without addressing any of the educational or enrollment issues there or the numerous problems at Shawsheen, is currently estimated at approximately $50 million and would have to be fully funded by the town at whatever construction costs are at the time.

Moreover, these new schools will positively impact property values, will help attract new business to Andover, and will enhance Andover’s reputation as a great place for people to live, learn, work and play.

I hope your readers join me in voting "Yes to WESP" on June 5 and June 15.

Joel Blumstein



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