To my fellow voters in the Wayland Union school district:
I am a proud father of two 5-year-olds who will be attending kindergarten at Baker School this fall. My kids would be some of the first to attend the proposed new 4/5 building with approval of the bond election Tuesday.
I love Wayland Union Schools, I have a school spirit award from my senior year in 2001 to prove that has always been a fact. You would think that I would be writing you today to encourage you to vote yes on the upcoming bond proposals. I tell you my friends that is not the case.
I am actually trying really hard to convince myself to vote “yes” on these two proposals, but I can’t. I feel there are too many things that are not needed in these very large “lumped together” proposals and I would like to see more options on the voting ballot. Some of these things are really needed, but somethings are definitely just wanted. I do not want to pay for “wants” for the next 24 years and 10 months. I will happily pay for the needs.
There are also less costly but equally effective alternatives to some of the needs other than the $54,945,000 bond proposals such as a sinking fund, less expensive renovations to Pine Street and using the funds that come from revenue sharing from the Gun Lake Casino and Gun Lake Tribe, differently.
Up until late last fall, I attended many school board meetings, work sessions and bond proposal meetings over the previous two to three years. I am sad to say many times I was only one of a handful of people in attendance. I heard things first hand. I have yet to hear one good, solid reason we as a community should vote yes on either of these two proposals.
The “expected growth estimate” doesn’t mean we need a new building. I’ve recently learned approximately 20 years ago Pine Street School held about 550 students. Today, attendance at Pine Street is in the neighborhood of 425 students, that’s 125 fewer students. The average class size 20 years ago at Pine Street was around 27 students. Pine Street School hasn’t shrunk or lost square footage. There was a bubble of students who came through and we managed to get through it.
Another thing I can’t get my mind around is if you take the projected 264 students increase over the next five years and divide that by the 13-grade levels (K-12) you get about 21 students per grade. If there are 10 classrooms for each grade level, that’s only an increase of 2.1 students per classroom over 5 years.
I do believe that Dorr Elementary and Steeby are starting to get pretty full. I will also say I believe adding a sixth-grade wing at the Middle School would be a decent solution to help alleviate those crowding issues. If you take all sixth-graders out of Pine Street and put them at the middle school you can put all fourth-graders into Pine Street and make Pine a 4/5 building. All fourth-graders at Dorr and Steeby would go to Pine, freeing up many classrooms in those schools.
Some say that Pine Street is “too old and not worth putting more money into.” I have heard with my own ears the maintenance supervisor for the district say that “Pine is the most structurally sound building in the district.” I have heard that echoed by other administrators and folks held in high regard in the area.
When, why and how did Pine Street become too old to keep putting some money into. We have always had pride of ownership in that building. If it’s simply the fact that it’s old, that would mean in 15 years when Baker School gets to the age that Pine Street is today, we should abandon ship on it and build another new elementary building, because of its age. I don’t think I know what it is that is really wrong with it, do you?
The district says they hope to preserve Pine Street, but how? When someone else buys it, the school can’t tell the new owner what to do with it. This exact topic came up when Moline Elementary School was sold a few months ago. One of the board members asked if they could somehow limit what the new owner could do with the property and was told no.
The new 4/5 building that is proposed will have fewer classrooms in it that what Pine Street does. To me, if you are closing one to open another, the new one should be larger, especially if one of the reasons you’re are doing it is because of a possible enrollment increase. Why not just keep Pine Street and build a new wing at the Middle School? Seems like that would give us, even more, room to grow in the future without the need for another bond later on down the road to expand the proposed new 4/5 building.
We can’t just keep adding bond millages every time we want something. We should really show some pride of ownership and keep all of our facilities in tip-top shape whether they are old or new. Think of someone who buys a new car, you think, wow, they have a lot of money to buy that fancy new car. Now think of what you say to yourself when you see a classic car driving down the road or at a car show. I think, wow, that guy sure has a pride of ownership on that car to keep it looking and running as good as it is.
There is a problem with an unsecured entryway at the Middle School that is included in Proposal 1 of the Bond. I’m ashamed we have a safety issue like this unresolved and relying on a bond proposal. Unless it’s not really as bad as we have been told? There is a video monitor on the outside of the middle school where you are buzzed in. A recent video I saw on a “support the Bond Facebook page” didn’t mention this and made it look like people are just allowed in after buzzing the office.
The school was awarded a $98,854 grant in February from the state. Where has this money gone and why wasn’t it used to help pay for a secure entryway at the Middle School? We receive roughly $1.6 million to $1.7 million annually in revenue sharing from the Gun Lake Casino, which I am grateful for. If some of that money were allocated differently, it could pay for this entryway, easily. We could also repair the tennis courts, fix the football field (that we have been playing on for over 20 years as it is) if we do it right.
I know people will agree and disagree with what I have just said and that’s OK. I know I have been to the school board meetings where things are brought up and I know what I have learned as a result. Some of the things being proposed do not make any sense to me. I feel this process was rushed. I strongly feel some of the things in the bond are needed but there are many things attached to it there are not.
I know I have a love and a passion for Wayland that not everyone has. I know I am nervous and worried about retaliation against my young children throughout their education because currently, I do not support these two bond proposals as presented. I have read and heard some folks say if you don’t vote yes on these two proposals then you’re “not investing in our children’s education.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’m not suggesting we don’t invest in our children’s and grandchildren’s education, I’m just suggesting we do it for less than $54 million over the next 24.7 years. I have tried hard to come up with a reason to vote yes on these proposals. I have tried to convince myself that voting no would be the wrong thing to do but it’s like Mark Twain said: “you’re never wrong to do the right thing.” I know what my right thing will be when voting on May 2nd.
Matt Miner, Wayland Township