EASTHAM — During her four years as a varsity lacrosse player, Nauset Regional High School senior Paige Flanagan, 18, has had plenty of experience with the infamous brown shower water in the girls’ locker room.
After morning workouts, said Flanagan, who lives in Wellfleet, “we would all run for this one shower because it was the only one that didn’t have brown, rusty water.”
Flanagan and seven other Nauset students interviewed for this article listed a number of problems they think indicate an overhaul is in order — from plumbing and heating to dark, windowless classrooms.
But listening to adults discuss eliminating school choice to pursue a plan to build a smaller school, Flanagan said, made her worry about a different kind of problem. “If we got rid of school choice,” she said, “we would have a lot fewer kids, and we wouldn’t have the amazing artists or the sports kids.”
At a special election on March 30, voters in Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Brewster will decide whether to borrow $95,164,360 — the $131,825,665 price of the planned renovation minus a state grant of $36,661,305.
Coming down to the vote, opposition has centered on the fact that almost one-fourth of the 877 students at NRHS are school choice students. That means they come from other school districts, like Sandwich and Dennis-Yarmouth, that pay an annual per-pupil fee. But those towns don’t contribute to the upfront capital expense of the renovation. Opponents of the project argue that, if school choice students were no longer invited to attend Nauset, a less costly renovation could be undertaken.
Flanagan has gotten into it on Facebook with some of the adults who are against the inclusion of school choice students.
“I asked my mom if I could respond to the comments on the Wellfleet Community Space,” she said. Those who argue against choice, she maintained, in reality don’t want the school renovation at all.
“They just want it to fall to the ground,” she said.
Flanagan is an athlete, but said she takes pride in the fact that, at the school, “We take art very seriously.” In her view, “What makes Nauset so good is we are open to anyone and anything.”
Senior Sarah Kelly, 18, who grew up in Wellfleet, said she appreciates her small-town circle of close friends. But the diverse population at the school has given her an equally valuable opportunity. “It’s also important, socially, to have friends from as far away as Bourne and up to Provincetown,” she said.
She thinks that if the school population were limited to students from Brewster, Orleans, Truro, and Wellfleet, Nauset would lose its competitive edge. “Choice,” she said, “is critical for the quality of the school itself.”
Max Boulerice, a senior from Brewster, said that school choice was a non-issue among Nauset students.
“Ask any student if they are for or against it and they’d say, ‘Huh? What are you talking about?’ ” he said. “There is no stigma for students from other districts. They made that decision for themselves. If anything, we kind of wear that on our chest.”
The buildings, said Kelly, “are a real mess.” But, she added, “It’s really the people that make it, not the buildings. If opponents of the renovation would just take the time to walk around and see what’s wrong with it, they would understand.”
The school’s heating system, according to several students, is shot. “You’re freezing or you’re super-hot, and the teachers cannot really control it,” said Ella Grimm, 16, a junior from Truro.
Hailey Martin, a 17-year-old junior from Yarmouth, said her science teacher wore shorts until recently due to the high temperature in the classroom.
The substandard heating system includes the original 49-year-old boilers, said Nauset Supt. Tom Conrad in a presentation that can be found at nausetbuildingproject.com/photos-videos/.
To get hot water at a bathroom sink, you must run the water for at least five minutes. This, said Conrad, is because the school’s hot-water tank holds 10,000 gallons.
“You can imagine how inefficient it is to heat that volume of water,” Conrad said.
Ironically, the room where she took an architecture class doesn’t have windows, said Sophia McManus, a junior from Barnstable. Other buildings have windows, but there are only two in each classroom “and they are really small,” she added.
Junior Katie Sanborn, 17, from Yarmouth Port, found this to be the biggest problem. “The rooms are very dark because the windows are so small,” she said. “You don’t know what’s going on outside at all. You kind of feel trapped in the classrooms.”
As a musician, Sanborn said another concern is that the school has no space for large performances. The winter concert, for example, must be held at the middle school in Orleans, where the stage is much larger and the acoustics are superior, she said.
Also, the auditorium ceiling leaks.
“We had a storm last year and we were running around putting bowls in the auditorium so it wouldn’t damage the carpet,” Kelly said. “If you look up at the ceiling you can see all the water damage.”
“The school is falling apart,” said Boulerice. “All the walls have these 20-foot planks. One day the top bolts came out of one of these planks and it started leaning down into the middle of the courtyard.”
Flanagan said a lot of her fellow seniors haven’t gotten involved in fighting for a new school because they will be long gone before it’s completed. But she cares about the renovation because “it’s going to help the kids who are in elementary and middle school right now,” she said. “Everyone should be able to have a nice high school.”
Voting in the March 30 Special Election
Residents of the four towns in the Nauset Regional School District — Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Brewster — must vote to borrow up to $131,825,665 to renovate the regional high school. With a state reimbursement of $36,661,305 authorized, the estimated cost to district taxpayers will be $95,164,360.
For property owners in each town with a house valued at $400,000, the first-year tax impact would be $142.05 in Wellfleet ($35.51 per $100,000 valuation); $170.64 in Eastham ($42.66 per $100,000 valuation); $123.98 in Orleans ($30.99 per $100,000 valuation); and $306.35 in Brewster ($76.59 per $100,000 valuation).
The tax impact varies from town to town in part because towns contribute to the cost of the school in proportion to their school-age populations.
Voting is both by mail and in person. Voter registration for the election ended on March 10.
By Mail: All registered voters by now have received a post card to sign up for mail-in voting. Those post cards must be returned by March 24. (If you didn’t receive a post card, call your town clerk.)
You will receive a mail-in voting package containing one return envelope and two ballots — one for your town election and one for the district election — as well as two affidavit envelopes. The district ballot and its envelope are yellow; the town ballot and envelope are pink. Even though there are two ballots, there is just one question on each. Mark your vote on each and sign the affidavits. Make sure to match up colors as you put the paperwork back in the return envelopes.
Completed ballots may be dropped at the drop-box locations in your town:
- Wellfleet: Vestibule of the police station, 36 Gross Hill Road.
- Eastham: Outside Town Hall, 2500 State Hwy.
- Orleans: Outside Town Hall, 19 School Road.
- Brewster: Outside Town Hall, 2198 Main St.
In Person: Voting in every town will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30. —K.C. Myers