Let’s start with a quote from an editorial by Susan Lynn in the Saturday Register “…measure your success in other kinds of currencies…kids taught to read…”
We’re excited by 50 percent off on the price of food, clothes, cars and a few sundry items. Surely we must be excited by 50 percent off the price of a new school. That’s where we find the real value; the real currency; kids taught…!!
When we are elderly, the value favors our grandchildren. When we are parents the value favors our children. Will taxes increase? Yes, but less than half what they are destined to increase if we try to do it later as we finally give up on the old buildings, as we rightly did with the old hospital. The new hospital is a crown jewel for Iola when new people come to town looking for a progressive and up-to-date place to live and still enjoy a country atmosphere.
The hospital is a wonderful start. Then they visit the schools. We’re proud of our “neighborhood schools” that really aren’t neighborhood when final attendance is involved due to overcrowding in some; shifts to others; resulting in overcrowded classrooms in almost all cases. Need more teachers? Yes, but where do you put them when the closets are already full?
The idea of a new school didn’t start with a teacher saying “let’s do it” to the Board of Education and them just jumping on the idea. They have studied this for years; asked for facts for years; examined the conditions for years; are putting the numbers together as to reasonably expected savings from a new school; and can see the positive need for a new school ready to teach our children ALL of the requirements for the new world they will have to survive when they take over. And what is the value to the Board of Education? Pride in what they have accomplished for Iola.
We’ve personally had it too good (although we might not see that). But we can’t just pass that on. We would like to believe that our “good times” will just happen, but they won’t. Not without up-to-date schools. We owe it to them. Let’s do it.
The more information I get about the pros and cons of building a new elementary and high school on the north side town, the more I am convinced that this is the best option for our kids, our community and the right time to do it.
Interest rates are at historic lows, the state will pay 51 percent of the costs making it easier on our pocketbooks, and the district faces huge repair costs in the near future that will continue to take money away from educating our children to keep dated, inefficient buildings running. If anyone looks closely at the money the school district will save once they are in new buildings, the answer is clear.
But what I am hearing from some people is
1) New schools will not make the quality of education any better; and
2) We need to focus on finding and keeping good teachers, not building new schools, because that is the heart of good education.
I strongly feel that new schools WILL improve the quality of education our children receive and help us keep the great educators we have and attract new, high quality teachers.
New school building specifically designed for the way education is provided today can help our students by allowing them access to the latest technology, spaces designed to fit the needs of teachers and students, and flexibility to adapt to changes in the future. One group that will definitely benefit is students with special needs. If any of you are not sure how you are going to vote, go to the schools and see the spaces that are currently used for special education — closets, old locker rooms, old bathrooms. Our children deserve better than this. I was able to go on the tour of the new elementary school in Garnett and see the dedicated spaces for special education, school nurses, wide open and bright cooperative learning spaces and access to the most up-to-date technology. It is exciting to think that we have the chance to give that to our students. I have the awesome opportunity to work in the rehabilitation department of the new Allen County Regional Hospital. I can attest that having a facility that is new and designed specifically for how rehabilitation is delivered today has made a big difference in the quality of services that we provide. If we give our teachers that same opportunity — state-of-the-art buildings specifically designed for current education practices — I think we will be amazed at what a difference new buildings can make in our children’s educations.
One fact that I think is alarming is that in the next 10 years we have 46 teachers that will be able to retire from our district. I agree that teachers are the heart and soul of our education system. My children have some of the best teachers in the state and I often worry that the lure of higher paying positions and better facilities will take those best teachers away. I learned at a recent meeting that our district’s pay scale is one of the lowest.
This is in part due to the high cost of keeping up our aging buildings.
Can you see the best and brightest teachers wanting to come to USD 257 when they have the option of a higher salary and better facilities all around? If new facilities can help us attract quality teachers and allow us to better pay our current teachers, I think this fact alone is enough to justify any hardship that having our schools a few minutes farther away will cause. As we look to the future, I want every advantage in helping quality teachers choose Iola. We have all seen the difference that a truly dedicated teacher can make for our children. Let’s do anything we can to get them here.
The amount our taxes will go up by voting “YES” on Nov. 4 for both the bond issue and city sales tax is minimal. If we wait, in all likelihood, it will be greater. If voting “YES” can improve the quality of education and help us keep and attract quality teachers, what could be better for our kids?
— Ben Taylor