Community should support school construction projects

Everyone’s getting crunched these days – prices go up, but rarely seem to come down.

With that in mind, I can understand why voters might shy away from school bond or levy requests, as they did last fall when Iowa Central Community College failed to get enough votes to approve a bond. But when the South Central Calhoun Community School board asks for your support for some facility upgrades, you should give them an unequivocal yes.

The district closed buildings – and gyms – when Southern Cal and Rockwell City/Lytton combined. As painful as that was for the communities that lost their schools, it made sense. Busing is costly, too, as is maintaining buildings that weren’t constructed to support the modern technology needs of schools and that weren’t designed to accommodate people with disabilities or elderly grandparents, who love to come cheer them on during concerts and sporting events.

But district officials are starting to feel the burden of the busing system that is in place, and more than that, the students are feeling the squeeze of the limited space at all three buildings. Visit SCC Elementary on a day too cold for outdoor recess and you’ll be amazed at how well the teachers can constrain the energy of young children walking the halls for an entire recess period because there’s no gym space available. You’ll see teachers working with students one-on-one in hallways, which are busy even when it isn’t recess time. Any elementary school will always have a low-grade buzz in the halls, with students moving from class to specials, but at some point, the amount of work being done outside of an enclosed space becomes unsustainable.

School board members have tried to prioritize the needed projects, cutting a number of extraneous suggestions and paring down the construction to the bare minimum – gym space at the elementary and the middle school, plus more space at the elementary for teachers to collaborate with each other or work with individual students. A reworking of the high school locker rooms, which SCC board members report have been unsightly since their own high school days, is also still in the works.

While I would have liked to see a community component added to the project, as has been done at many schools with great success around the country, I can certainly understand the board’s hesitation to expand the project that far. They need to get the support of as many voters as possible, and at least some residents in Lake City, Lohrville and Lytton have already expressed their opposition to funding any type of community center in Rockwell City. Fair enough.

Government entities keep asking for more money, and I can understand a knee-jerk opposition to yet another tax asking. And I know people are going to argue that the school board should have thought about gym space before closing buildings. The problem with that argument is that those buildings were far removed from where students already are, and trying to use them would have only compounded the busing challenges.

District residents should look ahead, think about what kind of school they want their children and grandchildren to attend. We already have a great district – strong academics, great teachers, successful sports teams. Those things don’t come cheap, so let’s keep working to make it even better.