Letters to the editor


August 21, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Dear editor,
The city of Iola and the USD 257 district face a very important decision come Nov. 4. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. People need to find out the facts so they can make an educated decision as to what is best for our community. People need to keep an open mind until they get the correct facts from those qualified, tour our schools, and carefully look at the consequences of both a “yes” and a “no” vote. Which one can we really afford?
I am a graduate of Iola High School. I attended both Lincoln and Jefferson growing up, along with the Iola Middle School. I have very fond memories of my years in the Iola schools. Now I am a taxpayer and mother of four with kids in three different schools. I have been a weekly school volunteer for the past 11 years. I have seen the state of our schools. I have seen the special education classes in the old locker rooms. I have seen special education classes and reading groups held in a closet. I have been at the secretary desk when people ring in and worried that I can’t see if they are carrying anything because the screen I see them in is about 1 inch by 1 inch. I have been the one sitting in the hallway reading to children because there is nowhere else to go. I have had to help clean out the items in the basement because of mold and water and throw things away. I have seen the discrepancy in class sizes at the schools — a third grade with 22 at one school and a third grade with 13 at another. I have seen one school have iPads, laptops, etc., while another has none just because one school had their kids sell more cookie dough.
We have some of the oldest school buildings in the state of Kansas — fact. Not something to be proud of or that businesses want to advertise to potential employees. This is not an issue of needing to fix a few things. This is an issue of buildings not being worth the cost of needed repairs. Yes, you would keep a car that just needed minor repairs, but when that car gets so old that the repairs cost more than the car is worth, you would not be smart or financially responsible to keep that car. That is the situation we are in. I have seen the estimated costs (over $5 million) for the replacement of the HVAC units which ALL the buildings will need because they are all past their life expectancy, and the district doesn’t have that kind of money in the budget. To get it, they have to take away from technology purchases, teachers’ salaries and other educational purchases, which is what our school budget should be for. I have seen the numbers that show that our buildings use 70 percent more in utilities than the new one up the road — again, money that could be used for technology purchases and such.
I have seen the plans for the old schools if the bond passes. Ideally, the old buildings will be bought and used for other purposes, but if not, money has been set aside to take the buildings down, leaving playground equipment in place — creating nice parks and green space in town. For the high school the plan is to take down the old three-story building but leave the commons area, lecture hall and gym — creating a new recreation center in the middle of town. These plans compliment Iola’s vision to become a more healthy and active community.
The school board is comprised of community volunteers with nothing to gain from this issue. They have looked closely at the numbers and feel this is best for our community. They have made the brave decision to push this forward. And what is the cost? For the average Iola citizen, it is $6.60 a month — about the price of a Walmart cheese pizza. Is a new, safe, adequate, efficient school worth $6.60 a month? I think so.

AND WHAT IS THE COST of a “no” vote? Our schools are not going to get better. We don’t have the money or resources to fix them the right way if this issue doesn’t pass. If we wait any longer, the 51 percent state aid may not be available — causing a much greater tax burden on each of us if we don’t pass this. Why not build when we can get it for 50 percent off?
Iola is small. It needs drawing points. Our new hospital is definitely a positive drawing point, but our schools are not. Several articles in the paper over the last few months have talked about what research shows makes a good, thriving community that people want to move to. It is good healthcare — which we have; good schools — which we need great improvements on, and good housing and jobs. All of these are connected. They are like legs of a stool. You need all of them for a community to move forward in the right direction. We have the chance now to put Iola in a very strong position to move forward to the future and secure it as a great place to live and raise a family.
I have looked at the numbers, found out the facts and feel like I can make an educated and responsible decision come Nov. 4. We need to vote “Yes.” The time is now.
To learn more, to support the “Yes” vote campaign, I urge you to join us at a community meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the Riverside Park Community Building.
Jennifer Taylor,
Iola, Kan.

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