PAPER-POSITION EDITORIAL: As ground is broken on school, celebratory time in N’hampton

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A rendition of the new Northampton high and middle school complex.

It is a celebratory time in Northampton County. After years of planning and work, the county leaders symbolically broke ground this week for a rebuilt and remodeled complex in Eastville containing its middle and high school.

Northampton parents, school supporters, and others asked for this. The Northampton School Board and Northampton Board of Supervisors delivered. The $81.3 million contract has been awarded.

Northampton voters in a referendum approved a 1% sales tax to help fund the project. Supervisors, thanks to the hard work of the finance department and others, approved the school construction plan without a real estate tax increase.

How long has the process been? In October 2020, the Eastern Shore Post quoted leaders as saying the project would be substantially completed by the summer of 2024. That won’t happen, of course, but nobody ever imagined groundbreaking would be postponed this long.

In a community like Northampton County, a new school building is more than a school — it’s a community center, civic center, conference pavilion, banquet hall, and sometimes even a funeral chapel.

We hope school leaders recognize that the community paying for this building will expect it to be used for many purposes in addition to education.

Further, this remodeled complex fixes one of the issues facing Northampton schools. There are others that need addressing.

The middle school last year had all six of its state quality indicators listed at below standard — the lowest level. The school system presently has a remarkable 29 vacancies — and six vacancies already posted for next year. Housing for new employees is scarce and expensive. Salaries for 30-year teachers rank 121st out of 131 state school systems. The proposed operating budget for next year has a deficit of $2.5 million.

However, this week’s groundbreaking is an important investment in the students and county. It has been a long time coming — and is worthy of celebrating.

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