Looking at the option of going up or around

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    SPARTA-To many residents, the area behind the Sparta High School would seem like the perfect solution to the district's search for a site on which to build a new school. However, officials said, the area is not even under consideration. That's because things have changed since the school was built more than 50 years ago. The Department of Environmental Protection classifies most of the area around the school as wetlands. Regulations require a buffer of 50 feet between any building and the protected areas. "The problem in building an extension is that the school, the fields, the parking lot, are totally surrounded by wetlands," said Dr. Thomas Morton, Sparta's superintendent of schools. During a recent interview, Morton displayed a large scale topographical map which shows the school and the wetlands surrounding the complex. The school board has been looking for a track of some 60 acres to build a new high school, which it contends the district needs to solve the current overcrowding in its schools. Officials say a site must be located soon if the district is to apply for state help for the construction of the new school. Some residents have criticized the district's plans to build a new facility. Even more controversial has been the school board's threats of employing eminent domain if a suitable track of land is found but the owner refuses to sell. "The board is apparently willing to resort to the tacticts of a schoolyard bully; trampling the rights of the individual, wrestling away by force whatever it wants and justifying the means by the end," said in a letter to this newspaper, Alan Vonderahe, commenting on the board's actions. Another consideration dismissed by Morton was the possibility of building an addition on top of the existing school. According to the superintendent, this option would require that the school be closed during the construction, which could last between one year and 18 months. "So where would we put these students during that time?" asked Morton, adding "All we know is that a reasonable resolution has to come to fruition at some point very soon, one that the education board and most of the residents can agree on."