After careful thought and research, I am going to give my opinion about the school bond issue. I am not trying to change anyone’s vote unless they want it changed. I will continue to be friends with people who oppose my view and treat everyone with respect. I will also respect that others have made a different choice for different reasons. I ask that no one use this letter as a stage to berate others or myself for their choices.
I am voting Yes.
The reasons why I am voting Yes are as follows:
We cannot continue to stand by and watch as children are unable to enter through the doors of our schools and have the exact same treatment. ADA is crucial to me. We cannot allow members of our community to be treated as second-class citizens for the convenience of those who do not have accessibility issues. Creating accessibility at our schools is more than just an elevator. You need at least three feet of space for wheelchair maneuverability, private spaces for individuals to change diapers, quiet rooms for autistic children to have time to overcome stimuli, etc. For those who think that children, or staff, in wheelchairs can just be carried up and down stairs, that is dangerous and a liability for the school. One false move and the school will be sued. Imagine having to let go of school funds because of that. As someone who spent a lot of time in the nurse’s office as a child, testing my blood sugar and taking medication, the fact that there is not a nurse’s office at every school bothers me. It is a HIPPA violation to require school psychologists to do testing in a teacher’s lounge. Those children should have their privacy kept as securely as any adult.
I have been able to walk into many of the schools with no one batting an eye to let me walk in with no ID. You have to walk across the entire commons at the high school to even get to the office. We should have a front office entrance where ID is checked.
We cannot demand special classes for our students (PE, art, music, etc.) and not give them the space and time to do so properly for each child. We can be at the cutting edge of arts and tech instruction in a small town (which will encourage young, educated people, like me, to move here for the opportunity) by expanding the offerings at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Large cities may have lots of jobs, but they also have lots of qualified people. I came to this town to get experience in a place that would show me the true growing pains of a fledgling career. We have the opportunity to give that education to other young people. To listen to their experience and education. To continue that drive in our community.
I have been in the schools as a volunteer, a substitute, and a SAFE BASE staff and we need to have a better structure for our students. Despite what some people believe, mold cannot be killed with bleach and dryer sheets. Mold removal, done properly, is expensive and time consuming. And it can still come back.
When the issue first came up, I was on the fence for a long time. I was concerned about the possibility of losing a school within walking distance of my house. About not letting my future children go to the same school my grandmother did (I mean how cool would that be?!). About the possibility of losing historic buildings that give character to our town. I also know that increasing sales tax is regressive for those who are low income and increased property tax could lead to higher rent for non-owners.
I am at poverty level. I am a renter. I have worked three part-time jobs and have still been unable to pay my bills. I have been on EBT (food stamps) and have known what it is like to wait anxiously for the next paycheck in order to eat. I know what it is like to sink under the mountain of debt created by student loans and bills that never cease. Taxes will always be there. They will fluctuate up and down depending on needs in the community and economy. If you don’t like what your tax rate is, you need to talk to your representative about what those taxes are going to. I think a school issue is a good reason for higher taxes.
I cannot pass up on this investment in our future. What our town needs is more investment. That is what I see every day. I hear as people complain about this and that. But they don’t do anything about it. I hear on end about how we need more young people to move (back) to our community. How do we convince young adults to come and invest in our community? We have to invest in our young people. This is my chance to DO something. To invest.
People claim that the new hospital brought no one new to the community. People ask how can a new school not have the same issue? The hospital hasn’t even been open a year. Ask any person opening up a new business how long it takes them to work out the kinks. It takes much more than a year. Could the new school have possible problems? Yes. But so could any new project we start. We have to come together, as a community to invest, to have it work for the greater good.
Besides, with each new person who moves to town or moves away, do we give them a survey to fill out? Have we interviewed them as to why they have moved to town or left? Most people just look at me puzzled as to why I would move from California to Iola, Kansas? I have started to ask them, “why not?” We as a community must have that attitude for those who move here. For those who choose to spend their lives here.
I have told many people that if a different solution came up, where it would be cost effective to renovate the schools, not disrupt instruction during renovation, give ADA accessibility, that I would vote for that. But I cannot let children wait for another option. The time is now. This has been in the works since long before I left my own high school. I would think that there would have been time enough to give another plan.
As a young person who is thinking and talking with her partner about starting a life in this community for the long term, how can I invest if there is no investment for my future and the future of my possible children?
Like I said, we don’t have to agree. I encourage diversity in beliefs. But let us remember respect when we discuss. That no matter the outcome of the vote, we are all members of the same community. We would want the same from our children.