USD 378 students deserve better

Raydon Robel

By A Contributor

Regarding the USD 378 bond issue, it is with a great deal of concern that write I this letter as a past Board of Education member. As I have been to meetings and talked to people, trying to gather information, I do not believe that the current proposal is in our best interest at this time.

Currently, our grade school has many challenges, issues and problems. The proposal will address some of these, but it also indicates that by moving the seventh and eighth grades to the high school, many of these problems will be alleviated, space will be sufficient and that other items are not a concern. Common sense and logic will see that the current plan does address some needs, yet it has not been thoroughly thought out for a district that is growing and will continue to grow.

The literature being presented and the information given at meetings change with each valid concern, as proponents try to justify the plan proposed. It is clear that with this many concerns being voiced, the plan was rushed. If it had been analyzed carefully, many more needs could have been addressed, and there would be less time spent defending it.

Those of us associated with Riley County schools have always thought we were a place of quality, but I’m not sure this proposal addresses quality.

What does a quality grade school look like today? First, we are overcrowded. We have small classrooms that are not conducive to learning when children and desks barely leave room to walk around. The library has been divided to create a computer lab that doubles as a classroom for math and reading. Support programs are sharing inadequate space such as storerooms and closets. We have students in a windowless basement room. We have special education students crammed into a room in the back of the district office with a very unacceptable restroom.

Next, the grade school is old and in need of updates. The 1929 building and 1957 annex need renovation, as does a small outdated kitchen that was built in 1983 to serve, at most, half as many children as the proposed plan leaves at the grade school. The north gym is 30 years old and has never been upgraded from a concrete floor to address safety issues.

There are multiple leaks in roofs, windows and the foundation. On rainy days, students and staff have to work around the “catch buckets” in classrooms. Bathrooms have make-shift stall dividers and are not ADA acceptable. Of course, fresh in our minds from recent events, the grade school does not have underground storm shelters. Does this paint a picture of quality? Grade school is where the foundation for learning is laid. Don’t we want the best for our children? Let’s not put a band-aid on the problems by saying all is well simply by moving out the middle-school students.

Yes, our middle school and high school have needs too. But a better, more defined plan can address multiple needs and even add some “wants.” Why does the plan for a new gym have two volleyball courts and one basketball court with seating for 400 if it is to be a P.E. and sports practice gym? Why not eliminate the seating (the other gyms already have it) and make it big enough for two basketball courts with a divider?

Why don’t we build an inexpensive out-building for storage and designate the old high school tunnels as storm shelters? Can we use an existing stage area better, rather than build an auditorium that is limited to 400 seats when we will continue to grow? Why are we basically tossing out the high school’s very adequate lunch area and starting over with a new one?

The district has identified some very legitimate goals, needs and challenges. However, the proposed plan lacks common sense, logic and problem-solving. It will definitely not address the future and the quality we want to see at Riley County schools.

Vote “No” on June 11. Rework the plans to better address the needs, and have a new vote in January on a plan that we can ALL support.

Raydon Robel, 7612 Anderson Ave., was a member of the USD 378 Board of Education from 1989 to 1997.

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