High school addition is needed

By Chuck Kajer

Of the four questions being asked on the November 8 school referendum, none is more important than the addition to the high school.

When the current high school opened in 1998, officials said it should take care of the needs of the district for about five to seven years. It is now seven years since that building opened, and the building has indeed done as predicted. But enrollment at the high school has now grown to the point that an addition to the building is a critical need.

The building was designed to house 1,050 students. It now has about 1,100. Additional lockers have been installed in the building and class sizes have been adjusted in some cases to accommodate the additional students. With new students comes the need for more teachers, but school administrators are at a loss as to where they can put those teachers, since they have so few open classrooms at any point during the day. The next step is to utilize open areas, such as the commons area and the auditorium for some classes. That puts the school back in the same situation it was in the mid-1990s, when the decision to build a new school was made.

The new students will keep coming. If voters approve the high school addition, the soonest the addition would be open would be in the fall of 2007, when enrollment is projected to be close to 1,300. In the past two bond elections, some have questioned the district’s enrollment projections, refusing to believe the district is growing as fast as the administration claims. In fact, the numbers have been accurate, and in some cases, conservative.

The district also offers good arguments for building the swimming pool, for purchasing land for another elementary school and for investing in energy-efficient equipment for the existing buildings. We encourage voters to look at those issues with an open mind, not with a knee-jerk opposition to any proposal that raises taxes. But first and foremost, the expansion of the high school must be addressed. It is the responsibility of the school district —and by that we mean all residents of the district—to provide a quality education for its children. If we fail to provide the facilities that are necessary, it will be difficult for the staff to achieve that goal.

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