A message of support for new school construction in ANY community
Learning is a constant activity that challenges one’s motivation and physical condition. But what about the physical condition and design of the actual school itself? How do they shape a child's learning experience and how do they contribute to a local economy?
Let’s begin where we may find some agreement: The design and condition of a school directly impacts our children’s educational experience. Delivery of instruction is just as important as delivery of healthcare. The impact of each differs only when the consequences—or benefits—are seen. In healthcare, the impact is more immediate. But, make no mistake, the consequences to a child’s education, although less obvious in the short-term, are very real and can have devastating effects on entire economies.
I also hope we can agree on the positive impact modern facilities have on the local economy. The question becomes, how can we best provide our children with a positive educational experience with the limited resources available? To help answer this, it’s important to understand the finances of a public school system. At the risk of over-simplification, schools are not much different than any other business model—in order to balance the books and sustain operations for growth, we either decrease liabilities or increase revenues. As with any successful business, we can and must do both to remain solvent and competitive.
In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say, I’m an unashamed advocate for the unrivaled benefits a public education offers. It is the best, and often the only hope, our children have of survival in an increasingly difficult and hostile world. The trust placed in the hands of our own citizen’s to ensure our children receive a proper education is a tremendous responsibility rightly placed. With this in mind, it matters not whether I’m in Menifee County or any other county of our great Commonwealth, I’m first, foremost, and will always be, an advocate for what children need most for success. What is contained here, specifically, is an impassioned plea for how a modern facility can impact the future of Menifee County. Much is based on multiple sources of research. I hope it helps to inform, and maybe even persuade, our community in support of the revenue needed to get our kids where they need to be…we just can’t get there from where we are, otherwise. A new school for our children will make a difference to the future of Menifee County.
In today’s busy world, parents and other community members simply don’t have a lot of time to just visit or walk through our schools. This is common to many communities. Typically, the only time our schools are filled with parents, families, and community members is when our student-athletes are on the court. But, we generally don’t have the time to really look at the physical condition of our child's school or, more specifically, the classroom. But, it is in the classroom that a significant number of students and teachers struggle with such things as limited space and resources, noise, poor lighting, molds, lack of fresh air, and hot or cold temperatures. Conditions like these have a huge and often negative impact on our children's education every day.
The Menifee County Elementary School faces demands that were never intended or even conceived when the building was built. The new tools, techniques, and teaching methods required to prepare our students for success, are not supported in small, over-crowded classrooms with out-of-date designs, poor communications systems, limited technology, or the inadequate security of a 50-year-old building.
A few prominent areas for concern come to mind when we take our children’s educational welfare into account. One, aged schools can't fully meet many Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements without extensive and expensive renovation. Accommodations needed to ensure all children receive the best education possible is often hampered in these environments. Secondly, and more specific to our children’s health needs, is temperature and ventilation concerns.
The poor conditions in our aged school may aggravate existing health conditions, such as asthma. Perhaps there is a significant potential for reducing asthma problems in the classroom and beyond if school air quality could be maintained at a healthy level. Thirdly, good acoustics are vital in any learning environment, but noise in classrooms often makes children struggle to hear and concentrate, slowing the learning process at the earliest age groups. Typically, children don't fully develop the ability to sort sounds from background noise until well into their teen years. Further, studies have linked a student's hearing problems to being held back in promotion to the next grade.
While it has been said, "A good teacher can teach anywhere", there is a direct relation between the condition of the school and student learning. In fact, facility condition may have a stronger effect on student performance than the combined influences of family background, socio-economic status, school attendance, and behavior. Consider, for example, the following:
How construction of school facilities has positive effects on the local economy:
? Substantial positive effects on home prices
? Increases in the population of families with children attending public schools
How quality of school facilities affects student achievement:
? Student and teacher attendance
? Teacher retention and recruitment
? Child and teacher health
? Quality of curriculum
? Achievement levels, particularly in Literacy
If we can agree that public education is a primary concern of our community, we need to determine, if not now, when will we solve the problem of poor classroom conditions and improve our children’s learning opportunities? From kindergarten through high school, the environment in which our students learn affects their performance and, ultimately, our future. We need to inform ourselves about the condition of our school buildings – and appreciate the important difference a facility can make in the life of a child. On January 3, 2017, I hope there is an over-whelming "Yes" vote for the future of Menifee County. And, if your vote is "No", it doesn’t mean you’re against kids. It just means we haven’t done enough to communicate, with a sense of urgency, the desperate needs many of our children face at Menifee Elementary School, every day.
In closing, and again in full disclosure, let me say, I do not live in Menifee County. I do not pretend to know the full economic burdens of the citizens of Menifee County. But, I was raised, and still reside just across the border in Salt Lick. From personal experience, I do know what a quality education will do for our young people. Please let me know how I can better convey the needs of our students and this community. Your feedback is vital in helping me understand how best to move our school, and district, forward.