Copyright 2004 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner                                                                   April 1, 2004

                                                Selling the Schools

   Yesterday, hubby and I went to the auction held at the former
Elmwood High School building, hoping to score some inexpensive music
stands and other cool stuff.  I haven't been to many auctions, and still tend to
get confused by that high speed patter the auctioneers use, and whether I'm
bidding on one item with the option to take identical items at the same price,
or bidding on a bunch of items at one time.  Being a Stuff Lady, I see all
sorts of things I'd like to buy because they have "potential," even though I
have no idea what that potential might be, at the time.  I also fall prey to the
"it's such a good deal, for that price, I can't resist!" syndrome, so I end up
purchasing things like boxes of ceramic tiles because I can get them for one
dollar instead of fifty dollars, never minding that I don't happen to need
ceramic tiles for any project at that moment.
    Because of this, it didn't surprise me that folks at the Elmwood
auction bought multiples of things like flourescent light fixtures, clocks,
pencil sharpeners, doors, office chairs, cafeteria benches and tables, and
other things that I, myself, could see some "potential" use for.  We bought
twenty feet of slate chalkboard, because I think it would make good
countertop material when we finally get around to remodelling our kitchen.
Nevertheless, I can't quite get my brain around what would make anyone
want to buy bunches of old student desks with attatched seats and book
holders, just like the one I sat in when I was in eighth grade.  They're too
small for most adults to sit in comfortably; unless one was home-schooling
their kids, I can't imagine anyone having more than one, even as a piece of
novelty or nostalgia furniture.  Maybe home-schooling is a much bigger
trend than I think it is, and the folks buying the desks hope to re-sell them to
parents who don't want to get rid of their children for even a few hours a
    All this stuff was being auctioned off because the Elmwood district
just built a huge new school  for all its middle and high school students, in a
building that meets all the modern requirements of energy efficiency and
wiring and security that the older, individual schools did not.  It sounds like
a big political mess, with factions and opinions abounding, depending on
whom you talk to.  I don't know much about it; the folks I spoke to at the
auction weren't sure whether some or all of the old schools were destined to
be torn down, or used for other purposes, or a mixture of both.  I can see the
advantages to having one large school instead of several smaller ones,
particularly when it comes to fielding a single, more competitive football
team to keep the interest and pride of the district community.  Oh, yeah,
modern facilities might help with those pesky academic standards and
proficiency test ratings, too.
    It's probably safe for me to assume, therefore, that big new
consolidated schools are supplanting smaller, older schools all over the
country, and that Elmwood isn't the only district that's holding auctions to
sell off old equipment before selling or demolishing the old school
buildings.  I hate to see structurally sound buildings torn down just because
they've become obsolete for their original purpose, so I hope someone turns
the old schools into something cool or useful.  My idea would be to use them
as antique malls or flea markets or some sort of permanent garage sale site,
or even to convert them to self-storage lockers (with the option to cart your
stored junk to the gym for weekend sales), instead of charging the taxpayers
for the demolition of the buildings.
    Taxpayer money built and equipped the old schools in the first place,
so it's only fair that the taxpayers should get first crack at whatever good
deals on "stuff" are available at the auctions.  But the money to create the
schools came from many more taxpayers than the few who benefit by
scoring a cheap sewing machine or electric range from the home economics
rooms, and there can't possibly be a market for all those student desks.  Is all
the stuff that doesn't sell or go to salvage contractors going to wind up in the
landfills?  What a waste!
     As regular readers of this column know, I hate waste.  In attempting to
avoid waste, I get ideas.  My ideas are those of a crank: impractical, hare-
brained, and never-happen.  Anyway, chew on this: the U.S.of A. has
bombed the bejabbers out of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the point where I see
news stories about American elementary school children who've started
pencil-and-paper drives to send these extremely basic scholastic tools to
children in those countries.  Why don't we send them some desks and pencil
sharpeners, as well?  Instead of paying through the nose to "rebuild" Iraq
with brand-new goodies, bring the National Guards back home where they
belong, and let them strip the old schools of equipment which is outdated for
our students, but that would be spectacular to students in other countries.  If
not the Guard, at least hire local contractors to do the stripping and sorting,
and let the military or some international relief agency deliver the goods to
wherever they are most needed.  Those old student desks have years of use
left in them, and they're already paid for.  I'd like to see government policies
that save all the taxpayers some money, benefit our local economies, and
keep usable scholastic equipment out of our landfills.  There must be some
way that everyone, instead of just a few, can benefit from selling the

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