Letters to the editor


October 20, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Dear editor,
As the upcoming election approaches, many of us have weighed pros and cons for new schools in Iola. The end result needs to be about the children and what is best for their future. As a community we need to think about the vision that we have for our youth. Our previous school boards and our current school board have put a lot of time and thought into what is best for our children and the patrons of Iola. The reason that it is the time to do it is because of the 51 percent aid we will receive from the state. To move forward in education and to give our children what they deserve, it is in a new school. New technology, adequate space for learning, cleaner environments, and equality for all children.
In attending a forum at one of our local elementary schools, a tour of the school was given for all those interested.
A former boys locker room is now a computer lab. Because of the structure of the building, walls could not be tore down to make the space more efficient for learning and teaching.
A former girls locker room where hula hoops and scooters were once stored years ago, is now a special education room. There may be eight children at a time in this small room with a few adults as well. These rooms were not designed to teach in, but rather a locker room for the gymnasium.
Testing done for those children needing assistance with their education is in a small room that used to be a janitorial closet where cleaning supplies, mops, and trash cans once were.
Water leaks have been a huge issue at all of the elmentaries as well as water in the basements. In going into the two other elementaries, more space issues and other problems were noticed as well. Mold, wood rotting on gym floors, more water issues to name a few. Why have these maintenance issues not been addressed? Well they have and they are. Our educators and district staff care very much for our children. But our current 5 schools are draining our budgets. Draining it so that it is taking away from being able to give our children more advancements in their education. This is where the 51 percent aid from the state will help us get there. We will be able to keep our heads above water and no longer sink.
Our current elementaries were built in 1938 and our high school in 1916. At that time in history, special education was nonexistent. Our current schools were built at a time when those with exceptionalities were institutionalized. Those with mental and physical disabilities have a lot to offer to their peers as well as their peers do those with exceptionalities. In 1973 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was put into law to protect students from discrimination based on their disability status. The Individuals with Disabilites Act (IDEA) was established by the government to make sure that children with disabilities are given instruction that meets their unique needs. If our current schools were built at a time when those with disabilities were not even thought of, how can we be doing these children justice? Our district and ANW Coop have done their best at making things work for those with exceptionalities. Rooms are switched from upstairs to downstairs every year to accommodate those who are not physically able to walk stairs. Closets are being turned into rooms for those who receive speech services. Children with physical disabilities do not have appropriate playground equipment to play along with their peers. Because of the age of our schools, all but one are out of ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliance. This means they are not accessible for those with physical disabilities and challenges. The only one that is compliant is the Iola USD 257 Preschool at Windsor Place nursing home. We have numerous children in our district with physical challenges and disabilities. A new school would ensure that all children receive what they deserve.
We have an opportunity to make it better for our children. We the citizens, parents, grandparents, and neighbors need to focus on the children and their future. Betterment for all children for their education. On November 4th, vote YES for the school bond issue to receive 51 percent aid from the state. Vote YES for the 1/2 cent sales tax increase. They are worth it.
Lesley Skahan,
Mother and Advocate,
Iola, Kan.

Dear editor,
This school bond issue is more about student achievement than it is about buildings. The bottom line is that we are spending too much money on repairing old buildings and that is taking away from vital resources that could and should be going into classrooms to benefit our kids.
The safety and security of our students is paramount. This bond issue would fix these issues in a more cost-efficient manner than renovating:
• Entrance Security
• Traffic Control
• Air Quality
• High-Wind Shelters
It would also create appropriate spaces for our children with special needs and not put them in places that were designed as janitor closets and locker rooms. It would make every classroom accessible by every student, parent and grandparent.
One elementary would centrally locate all our resources to help students that struggle with reading and math. It would also ensure that class sizes, technology and other resources are equitable throughout our district. Modern school design through the use of the “school within a school” concept allows for personalized experiences and environments for students as they learn in a “community” of 100-200 students.
The number one factor that increases student achievement is a quality teacher in the classroom, not school size or if they walk to school. With half our teachers being able to retire in the next 10 years how do we compete with other school districts in our county and area when we don’t pay them very well, we don’t provide adequate instructional technology and ask them to teach in a very old building.
Those conditions are due to the fact that the school district has been overwhelmed with maintenance, repair and utility costs. The sad truth is … they need to spend more. It is like trying to stop an avalanche with a snow fence. But where does the money come from on an annual basis to maintain these old buildings? Less money for teachers? Spend less on curriculum resources? Spend less on technology? Spend less on professional development for staff? Reduce extra-curricular offerings? Reduce career and technical education courses? Reduce fine arts courses? Reduce teachers and staff?
None of those options are what I want for our kids … all because we are spending our money on the past and not the future. It is time to switch that. Vote YES! TWICE!
Mark Kauth
Iola, Kan.

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