Election’s wake — schools should pare down bond proposal

Members of the Wayland Board of Education will go back to the drawing board Monday night to try to decide what to do in the wake of the defeat of two bond proposals.

Perhaps the saddest outcome of what happened last Tuesday, besides the resounding defeat, is the misguided notion that appeared often on Facebook that people who voted “no” do not care about educating the young people of the community. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking feeds the “us vs. them” mentality, the very flawed supposition that something is either good or bad and there’s nothing in between.

Such interpretations are as simplistic and unproductive as picking Michigan or Michigan State in athletics, voting Democratic or Republican in government or choosing Coke or Pepsi as our soft drink. We’ve got to stop looking at things as being only in back and white and pay attention to nuances.

Most of those who voted against the bond proposals do not hate the school system. Most had serious problems with the size of the projected costs and with some of the propositions some viewed as “wants” rather than “needs.”

As I stated in my editorial late last month, I had never before voted against a school millage proposal, but this time red flags went up and I could not bring myself to support two proposals that totaled $55 million, a significant amount of money.

I was opposed to the massive cost, as I think many others were.

I was opposed to spending a million bucks on artificial turf for the football field, a facility used only a few times each year by football teams and the marching band.

I was opposed to giving up on Pine Street Elementary as a viable site for fourth- and fifth-graders. I hear tell the historic 76-year-old building is still structurally sound, but needs some improvements and updates.

I was opposed to Tower-Pinkster’s assessment of danger to kids crossing Pearl Street to do band, physical education and shop. The street is blocked off and if we’ve got to stop throwing money at the possible, but very unlikely prospects of a deadly shooting or terrorist attack. Chances of either occurring are lower than kids being struck by lightning.

The very real needs are there, they just need to be repackaged and renewed.

The swimming pool is necessary because of the prevalence of lakes in this area and need for water safety instruction, but school officials need to explore sharing costs with other entities as a community pool.

As I said before, the proposed move that makes the most sense of all is an addition at the junior high to welcome all sixth-graders and create a middle school.

I hear tell Pine Street today has more classroom space than what was proposed for a new elementary for fourth- and fifth-graders, so it could very well better alleviate potential growth problems at less cost.

The tennis courts are a very real need as well, and that proposal for one 12-court facility should remain intact.

The bond proposals contained some good ideas, which should be offered up for a second go-round at the ballot box. But there were some costly and unnecessary proposals that need to be scrapped. I believe a less extensive and less expensive plan would be approved.

And school officials need to make a better effort to move away from the slick public relations marketing techniques and manufacturing consent. They need to concentrate more on better transparency and honesty. I think the public would appreciate it and show its gratitude accordingly.

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