Friday, January 27, 2006
Renovate or recycle
Yes, I'm one of those people in town who do not want to see the Highland School on School Street torn down or moved to a different site. As previously reported in this newspaper, the school, which was built in 1908 and has not been used for classrooms since 1987, is in need of serious repair. For the past 11 years, the school has served as artists' studios, with upkeep taken over by the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts in Concord.
At a recent meeting of the School Building Committee that was addressing the need for additional classrooms or a new school building on the Carlisle School campus, the committee voted against the Highland School as a viable school building, with one member of the committee dissenting. The possibility of temporary modular classrooms to be installed on the site if Highland were to be taken down was also discussed. Can you imagine the sight of modular classrooms sitting on the School Street site for the next five or six years while a new school is being built?
For many residents, Highland School is a beloved public building from Carlisle's historical past. It has been reported that it would take a 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 million-dollar investment to renovate and bring it up to code for school use. Might not renovations cost less if the building were to be used only as school administrative offices for the superintendent, principals and their assistants? If this is not possible, then the town should look at other possible uses for the building, including its present use as artists' studios. Townspeople who care about the Highland School should attend the Carlisle School Committee meeting on Wednesday, February 1, at 7 p.m. in the school library when the committee addresses the Highland issue.
Looking back, other Carlisle school buildings have been well preserved. The former North School (1828) at the corner of Lowell Street and North Road is the headquarters for Great Brook Farm State Park. The former South Street School (1839) at the corner of South and Cross Streets is a private residence. The Brick School building on School Street (1848) is used for Carlisle School art classes.
As the "California style," flat-roof school buildings, such as Spalding, Wilkins, and even the Concord-Carlisle High School, which were built back in the 1950s and 1960s, fall into disrepair, one has to ask if new school buildings or additional classrooms will be built to last only for 40 or 50 years.
With school construction and renovation costs on the rise, can the town afford to build another school building at this time that will only last until 2057? Will we continue to be a throwaway society? Shouldn't we think more seriously about school renovations and, if that is not possible, then at least make long-term plans to build a school that will last for more than 50 years?
Certainly the historic Highland School, which is still standing after almost 100 years, should not be torn down. It is time to renovate or recycle and make serious long-range plans for the future.
Concentrating the mind
Samuel Johnson once remarked that nothing so wonderfully concentrates the mind as the prospect that one is to be hanged in a fortnight. Well, another thing that wonderfully concentrates the mind is the prospect that one is to have a colonoscopy in the morning. As I sat down to write this piece, I had several themes in mind, but they all were crowded out by thoughts of the impending colonoscopy.
The procedure itself — a retrograde visual inspection of the nether portion of the alimentary canal — is not the concern, for it is done under sedation so that one has no awareness or recollection of it. And the motivation in my case is just a precautionary screening prescribed because of my age, not symptoms, of which I have none. Rather, it is the preparation that occupies the mind, for it requires taking a variety of substances that induce elimination, culminating in a forced drinking of a half-gallon of foul-tasting chemicals. All of this is to cleanse the colon to facilitate inspection. These concentrate the mind on the alimentary tract to an extent that would have impressed even so worldly a man as Samuel Johnson.
Most colonoscopies are performed by gastroenterologists, physicians who specialize in diseases of the alimentary tract. It was thought at one time that cancerous lesions were found primarily near the end of the colon, where they could be found using a rigid tube that went in only as far as the first sharp bend in the colon, but experience has shown that cancer can start anywhere along the colon so that a suitable screening procedure must inspect its full length. And that is what they do.
The American Cancer Society recommends a screening colonoscopy for everyone over the age of 50 and at ten-year intervals thereafter if the initial findings were negative, but at three- to five-year intervals if polyps or other significant lesions were found. As a practical matter, this recommendation implies far more colonoscopies than existing gastroenterologists could possibly perform, even if they did nothing else. In a sense, a screening colonoscopy is a privilege.
Despite all the unpleasantness, the procedure is rather interesting. Colonoscopes are flexible tubes about a half-inch in diameter and six feet long with a smooth plastic exterior and three internal channels — one to carry light to illuminate the dark interior of the colon, one to carry wires bringing electrical power to a tiny camera on the far end and sending back the television signals, and one to permit insertion of tiny instruments for taking tissue samples along the way, as may be necessary. The snout of the instrument is steerable to aid in pushing it around corners in the colon. The light is carried in a bundle of glass fibers similar to those that carry the signals transmitted on the Internet. The television camera is a charge-coupled device similar to, but smaller than, the image-capturing devices in digital cameras. And the tissue-snaring instruments are marvels of mechanical ingenuity.
All this technology will be brought to bear tomorrow, but in the meantime I have to keep drinking concoctions contrived by the devil with devastating effects on my digestive system. It's all I can think of.
P. S. It is now the day after the procedure, and I am happy to report that everything went without a hitch, no alarming lesions were found, and my eating habits are back to normal. My mind is now free to concentrate on more interesting subjects, like the other witty and profound observations of Samuel Johnson.
© 2006 The