There are “none so blind as those who will not see” (Jeremiah 5:21, and later utilized by satirist Jonathan Swift in his book of idioms “Polite Conversation”). Since there are members of the Fort Lee community who refuse to acknowledge the decrepit state of our school buildings, I am now forced to be their eyes and ears.
Having two children at Fort Lee High School, I have recently had the opportunity to visit the high school on several occasions, e.g. back-to-school night; student events, etc. It would be remiss of me to not survey the many building deficiencies present, most of which will not be rectified any time soon simply for lack of funds (e.g. FLHS football field, UGH!) But sometimes, money CANNOT be the defining issue, when a problem arises that is so disconcerting, so detrimental to our children that we can no longer “leave our blinders on and turn a deaf ear”.
The Fort Lee High School Gymnasium is an “unmitigated disaster”. Based on its current appearance and state of disrepair, one would estimate that it was originally built about the same time as the Coliseum in Rome.
After discussions with students; parents; and faculty members; I have drawn one obvious conclusion. It is an embarrassment to the community; it is a danger to our children; and something has to be done NOW!
It is difficult to even know where to begin. The following list of issues is just a microcosm of all the problems facing the community in any attempt to upgrade Fort Lee High School :
(1) The photo to the right demonstrates the deplorable state of the walls; i.e. cracked tiles and a filthy grating. There are many cracked tile areas throughout the entire gym.
(2) The biggest problem is the floor surface. It appears to be decades old without having been resurfaced. Recommended resurfacing according to one Google site was 5-7 years. Even if you strip and use Polyurethane on the floor annually, the coating will only survive the heavy usage for a short time each year, as the floor itself desperately needs to be replaced. It is inevitable that some kid will eventually slip, resulting in a severe injury from this negligence. As a coach, I would be “very reluctant” to hold full-speed drills. As a gym teacher, I would want to be very careful not to hold any activities that would endanger the children. Note: We do live in a very litigious society.
(3) Matting has fallen off sections of the wall creating a precarious situation.
(4) There are exposed outlets.
(5) The speaker system is antiquated, poor quality and should be replaced immediately.
(6) There are broken lights almost all the time; the maintenance department needs to replace them on a regular basis and they need to have the replacement lights in stock.
(7) The scoreboard is barely functional; it does not work 90% of the time (according to several students interviewed).
(8) There are four (4) locker rooms; three for the boys and one for the girls. This is probably a violation of Title 9, but ….
(9) The “Hall of Fame” section, has evolved into the “Hall of Shame”, not having been updated in years, with names peeling off. Beyond giving these Fort Lee High School “heroes” the respect they deserve, we should have a little more pride in our heritage. As for updating the “Hall”, could there not be a club organized at FLHS to fix that problem? A little ingenuity can go a long way. Note: It has been brought to my attention that the Hall of Fame was supposed to include a unique basketball. Sandy Burgos, local basketball star, set the Fort Lee record of 2121 points scored and set a NJ State record of over 300 three point field goals. This “ball” does not appear to be part of this display. That would be a heartbreaking loss of an important piece of memorabilia.
(10) The bleachers are antiques, no railings and just plain disgusting on every level.
The Board of Education has a capital expense fund of over $ 2 million. The most obvious solution to this problem is to access money from this fund, estimated $ 100k, to upgrade our gym. Let’s make it a showcase for the community and show a little pride. Most importantly, let’s give our kids a SAFE environment for sporting events and activities!
For once, I would request that the citizens of Fort Lee, en masse, pull together to implement a change that it ultimately critical to the safety and welfare of our children. Please attend the Nov. 12 and Nov. 26 BOE meetings and show your support for this cause!