The basic intent of this letter is to be a reminder that the children, not the building, are, or at least should be, the focal point of the school issue.
Iola’s schools are old and in great need of not only maintenance but complete renovation. As is the case in older homes the same holds true in schools, it costs more to completely renovate than to build new. The people who renovate usually have a passion for restoring the structure to its former glory. The schools restored to their former glory will still not meet the needs of the children of Iola.
Following are a few of the needs I think are necessary for an environment that is conducive to a quality education that cannot be provided by the teacher:
A local setting: School consolidation is something already being discussed in education circles. If we keep our old schools then it is very possible Iola children will be getting on buses very early each morning to go to Chanute or some other community where they had the foresight and concern for their children to build new.
Security of the building: While this was not a major issue when the current schools were built, it is now essential. Unfortunately neighborhood schools are a thing of the past. A false sense of safety based on warm fuzzy memories is dangerous. With new construction there will be only one facility making it much easier to secure the area in an emergency.
Accessibility for special needs students: As society has become more in tune with the needs of all students a new school will have those designs integrated in a way that will be so natural that no student need feel isolated or set apart.
Designated student pick-up area: There needs to be a dedicated area for students to be dropped off and picked up safely. I live one block away from an Iola elementary school and every day there are cars parked on several side streets in all directions. It is an accident waiting to happen that could have tragic consequences.
Health and legal issues: The mold and mildew problem in the schools is without a doubt a serious concern for the health of our children. I see this being addressed in the future by regulation or litigation. It will be expensive and could require building new facilities, most probably without state funding.
On an aside, I would like to address the tax issue. While I educated all of my children at home I never once questioned paying property taxes, of which part is used to support the local school district. That is what a community does. We all pay some so that all children, regardless of financial status, can receive an education that makes them an active member of society who will go on to support their communities.
So what will it be? Do we bite the bullet now and vote for a new school or pay for it bit by bit and have it be far less than what could have been?
Erin D. Maness,