In full support of new middle school

Published 10:02 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

To the Editor:

I have sat around listening and reading all the information about the effort by the Gates County School Board to build a new Central Middle School. I’ve heard the arguments about how much it is going to cost and I’ve heard all grades of suggestions on things we can do to “save money”.

You have already heard that there are several real issues with the existing school and that taking care of those issues will open Pandora’s box with so many other issues that will have to be repaired because the act of making significant repairs in one area causes us to have to make other expensive repairs in other areas which will come at a cost very close to the cost of replacing the two oldest wings of the school.

Many are rightfully worried about the tax increase this new school will bring and are not willing to take that step. I tend to look at things a little differently than most and feel that I need to share my thoughts on the situation.

As a county we decided years ago that we are opposed to change of any kind and with that thought in mind we, through our elected officials, have done all possible to keep industry out of the county because whenever we think of industry we can only see something like a major paper mill belching smoke, polluting the air and streams and creating major traffic problems. We always focused on the cost of having those businesses in the county without looking at the benefit of them contributing to the tax base helping us afford necessities such as schools that are built and equipped to afford our students the quality education they deserve. We’ve been successful at keeping the county just like it has always been……….too poor to pay respect! We have created the very situation we face because we failed to truly look down the road to see how our lack of prosperity would affect us today.

As our world, nation and state move forward we appear to be willing to continue to expect our students to compete in the new technologically advanced world with an education lacking the knowledge of how to compete in this new world climate. Central does not have a lab of any kind. Education today is focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to equip our children with the knowledge they need to excel in today’s world if they choose to attend college AND if they choose to enter the workforce directly from school.

Can we improvise to teach the STEM classes without the labs? Of course we can BUT improvising to make the best of a bad situation is going to be like putting a plug in a leak in the wall of a tire. We might stop the leak for a while but we will not have made a permanent repair we should be willing to expect our children to leave home with when we should have replaced the tire

A new school will afford our children at the middle school level an opportunity to get the educational foundation they need when they enter the work force or college to have the same possibilities in their futures as children from large metropolitan areas that can afford modern schools. It will also afford our educators an opportunity to use the technology other, larger schools use to challenge and enlighten our students to the exciting possibilities our world has to offer. Our educators will also be more able to monitor the situation in the halls because the arrangement of the halls would make it much easier to monitor all the halls with cameras strategically mounted allowing one person to monitor multiple halls freeing teachers up to do what they do best, EDUCATE! Our maintenance staff is constantly challenged to keep things running and overcome the problems associated with operating equipment and building that have passed their usable life. Those challenges are expensive because many repairs, by nature, are temporary until we can find the money to replace the piece of equipment or building part. As facilities age those opportunities increase in frequency and cost.

The real bottom line about the new school is not the tax increase or how much it will cost. The real bottom line is what will it cost for us to not replace Central Middle school. How many extra taxpayer dollars with have to be spent on maintenance instead of technology to improve the educational process? We have five schools in the county, all with most structures fifty or more years old. If we don’t start now replacing those aging structures, when do we start? If we don’t start now and wait until we have a catastrophic failure, will we suffer multiple catastrophic failures at the same time and find ourselves in even worse shape than we are now?

I will be voting for the new Central Middle school not because I want to pay more taxes, and not because it simply sounds like a good idea but because it is the right thing to do for our county and our students. Nothing less will be sufficient.

Ray Felton