Some of the online chatter, letters to the editor, fliers and phone calls regarding the school bond should raise an eyebrow. The lack of data from the district, and the histrionics from proponents and opponents alike has cultivated little but a field of noxious weeds.
Proponents, opponents, valley and in-town parents have expressed valid concerns, but their conclusions are predominantly based on emotion, not fact. Consider the following:
Is this a standalone bond?
Fact: No. The district says we must pass at least two subsequent bonds to address middle and high school needs. By the time we bring all of our schools up to current standards, we’ll have spent more than $200 million.
Can we keep all 11 elementary schools open?
Fact: Not with this bond. In February, the superintendent said, “For the first couple of years you’re building bigger than you’ll need, but it relies on school consolidation in the future.” The unwarranted expansions of Smith and Warren send us down the consolidation path.
Does this bond improve all 11 elementary schools?
Fact: No. It fails to address significant fire safety, seismic, ventilation and plumbing and electrical issues in at least four of our oldest schools, leaving them a far cry from the 21st century learning environments touted by the district.
How long would it take to float a new bond if this one fails?
Fact: A matter of months -- if the board has the will. With outside, professional direction, our community can develop a stop-gap proposal for our highest priority needs (like Jim Darcy), then take the time necessary to develop a comprehensive long-range plan.
I appreciate the amount of time and energy our community has spent on this issue, but as the saying goes, “don’t be afraid to walk away from a mistake just because you spent a long time making it.” This is Helena and we’re dedicated to our schools. We can do better by working together than settling for something that rips us apart just because we’re tired of talking about it. Vote no so we can work together on a better plan.
Darryl L. James