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Published in Print: September 6, 2000, as Letters

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The physical condition of schools is a topic regularly discussed by the media, government officials, politicians, and parents ("Facilities Gathering Highlights Importance of Involving the Public," Reporter's Notebook, Aug. 2, 2000). But while the debate goes on as to who should pay and how much to spend on facilities, students can get involved in improving the conditions in their schools now.

To the Editor:

The physical condition of schools is a topic regularly discussed by the media, government officials, politicians, and parents ("Facilities Gathering Highlights Importance of Involving the Public," Reporter's Notebook, Aug. 2, 2000). But while the debate goes on as to who should pay and how much to spend on facilities, students can get involved in improving the conditions in their schools now.

One way to increase student involvement in this area is through the student council. Schools with traditional positions of president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer would benefit from the addition of a "student council engineer" position in the student leadership aimed at increasing awareness of school environmental and facilities issues. The "engineer" would serve the principal and student body in being a point of contact for focusing on building problems noticed by classmates.

The success of any organization depends on the committed involvement of its members. Any method we use to draw students into the life of their school is bound to create more interested students and parents. It is widely acknowledged that large participation in the arts (choir, band, plays, audience participation, art shows) and in sports (teams, cheerleaders, games, fans) contributes to the sense of school community. Schools often develop reputations for having premier programs and achievement in areas such as math, science, debating, singing, or certain sports.

Regular and special events in a school year that provide opportunities for emphasis on the physical environment already exist. Often these events are directly related to rooms or areas where they take place. For example, a homeroom class might prepare a weekly list of work-related or cleaning items needed; the basketball team might voice its opinion about inoperative showers or dirty lockers; the stage manager could ask for help in repairing the auditorium lights; the science club president might be the voice to initiate repairs to the hood ventilation.

Programs like "Adopt a Corridor" would give ownership to a certain part of the building to groups interested in its maintenance. The student leaders of these groups would feel responsible to report their observations on conditions to the student council engineer, who would, in turn, meet with the principal to discuss possible changes.

Just as adults enjoy a civil work environment in an attractive setting, children deserve the same in their schools. We need to get more students to recognize that they can help create a pleasant school environment. By working closely with school administrators, students can improve school life as well as the quality of education.

Richard Sasse

Providence, R.I.

The writer is a member of the Lincoln School Buildings and Grounds Committee in Providence, R.I., a former maintenance manager for the Providence School Department, and an engineer with Vanderweil Facility Advisors in Boston.

Vol. 20, Issue 1, Page 68

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