As ballots for the Chewelah School District bond proposal have hit the mail, The Independent asked members of the Chewelah School Board to share their thoughts on the proposal and public education in general.
The current $10.5 bond proposal would remodel the existing 56,600 square feet at the Jr./Sr. High Building and add 19,500 for additional classrooms and gymnasium/multipurpose space. It would also authorize the district to “upgrade or modernize the junior/senior high and elementary schools, make District-wide safety and security improvements, expand student access to classroom technology, enhance learning environments, and update plumbing, electrical and heating systems,” according to the bond proposal language. Passing the bond would also make the district eligible to receive $10.12 million in state matching funds that would help cover the total cost of the project. Ballots for the Feb. special election must be postmarked by Feb. 10. A ballot drop box will also be located at the United Church of Christ located at 10 E. Webster from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 10 only.
Below are the questions from The Independent (in bold) with the Board members responses below:
What is the purpose of public education?
Chewelah School Board Chair, Position 5, Loretta Burkey: “Public education offers every child the opportunity to gain an education so that they may become productive, contributing members of society and better our world.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Position 2, Clint Kirry: “The purpose is to prepare students to be self-reliant, productive individuals; to teach them to think, speak, and write with clarity, precision, and independence; and to inspire them to embrace challenge and find joy and self-worth through their own achievements.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Position 3, Deanna Norvell: “The purpose of the public education system is to provide equal access to all members of our society to receive an education. Public education provides an opportunity for learning; learning increases future choices and increases the possibility of individual success in life. As a people we recognize the importance of education as one component of a balanced and healthy society.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Position 4, Tim Whitley: “It is our responsibility to do our best to ensure that we have educated our future co-workers, neighbors and community. We need to give our students an opportunity to be as successful as they can be, both now, and in the future as contributors to our community. My belief is a better educated student has a better chance to be both a successful citizen and successful in whatever path they choose in life.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Position 1, Citizens for Kids Bond Committee Chair, John Eminger: ”In a democracy, the central aim of public education needs to be to create an informed, involved, critically-thoughtful citizenry committed to the long-term welfare of the community and the collective pursuit of a just, healthy, and inclusive society. In a country that is founded upon the shared value of equal opportunity, all children must have access to an education that enables them to be full and productive participants in civic, social, economic, and community life. In today's world, that means promoting global knowledge, cross-cultural communication and competence, wide-ranging curiosity, and the ability to use a variety of technologies to continue to develop knowledge, expertise, and new perspectives and to actively participate in knowledge creation and civic discourse. It also means building emotional as well as cognitive intelligence.”
What role do facilities play in the quality of a student's education?
Chewelah School Board Chair, Pos. 5, Loretta Burkey: “It is important that our schools give our students a safe and secure environment so they can concentrate on learning. In addition, we need our facilities to be accessible to those students, staff and visitors with injuries or disabilities. And lastly, it's important that we properly maintain our facilities so that they will continue to serve future generations. We most recently consolidated the Chewelah Middle School into the High School building due to declining enrollment. The old Middle School building was expensive to keep open and had too many maintenance issues that were cost prohibitive to repair or maintain due to its age. This consolidation has allowed our District to reside in two (2) buildings; however, those buildings are 34 and 39 years old. Both of them, particularly the Jr/Sr High School need some maintenance and updating in order to serve our District well for the next several years. If we do not pass this Bond, our facilities will continue to decline and it will cost the taxpayers a lot more in the long run. In addition, we need some extra classrooms, another gym so that we don’t have to hold two PE classes in the gym at one time, and a performing arts stage for our outstanding music and theatre departments. “
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 2, Clint Kirry (District 2): “School facilities should provide safe, healthy, reasonably comfortable learning areas and all appropriate equipment needed to allow for the best outcomes in every educational program offered by a school or school system. All other variables being equal (same curricula, same teacher quality, same lesson pacing, same teaching methods, etc.), a student who is taught within a school facility that does not provide adequate science laboratory equipment, for instance, will not receive as high quality an education as the student provided proper lab equipment for experimentation. All other variables being equal, a student shivering in a classroom with inadequate heating or sweating in a classroom that is uncomfortably hot will be less able to maintain the energy and focus needed to learn as well as students in a more comfortable classroom. Students who are required to modify ad hoc classroom areas during very limited learning periods will have less instruction, activity, and study time than students who enter classrooms that are already properly set up and outfitted for planned class activities. Inadequate facility space to allow for the reasonable separation of disparate age groups (separation of 7th graders from high-school seniors in gymnasium locker rooms or during passing periods in overcrowded hallways, for example) can lead to students feeling unsafe at school—leading to a suboptimum learning experience.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 3, Deanna Norvell: “School facilities are an important component in education. Good facilities provide support for our existing academic and extracurricular activities. Improving and upgrading our structures exhibits a commitment to education now and in the future. One of ways a community shows education is important is by the buildings we construct to reflect the community members commitment to education.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 4, Tim Whitley: “The voting members of this community have partnered with us, the Chewelah School District, to give the students of this community the best education we possibly can. Keeping our students safe, secure and comfortable and minimizing their distractions are a huge part of that ‘best possible’ education. Updated and modern facilities ensure the available technology that is used for today student learning is available and can be put to use in our schools. We want facilities that draw people to our community, facilities that parents who come here and see our schools say ‘I want my kids to go to school here’ and we want facilities that draw top quality educators.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 1, Citizens for Kids Bond Committee Chair, John Eminger: “It is important that rural communities and schools work together to guarantee their students receive the best education possible. By working together, rural schools and communities can not only improve education, but revitalize the entire community. Strong school-community partnerships can renew a sense of unity, enhance the overall quality of life, promote the best use of limited resources, and lead to new possibilities in economic development. The possibilities are exponential when communities link school improvement and community development. Traditionally, rural schools have played a central role in their communities by providing both a basic education necessary for participation in a democracy and by playing a vital role in the development and maintenance of a community sense of identity. Whether it is through the use of school facilities for community events, athletic competitions, music programs, or drama performances, schools are intimately linked with their communities. This provides a central role for schools in the further cultural and economic development of their communities.”
How can members of the community who do not have students in the Chewelah School District benefit from investing in school infrastructure like building remodels or upgrades?
Chewelah School Board Chair, Pos. 5, Loretta Burkey: ”Our whole community profits from investing in our schools and our young people. New families moving to the area assess the quality of our schools and hospitals when determining whether they want to live in our community. We have quality staff who deliver a great education to our students, and they have often worked in less than desirable conditions. We do not need fancy, extravagant buildings, but we do need functional facilities that will serve our students well. Our buildings are also used by our community for various events, such as memorial services, craft fairs, and youth programs.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 2, Clint Kirry: “Investing in school infrastructure and remodeling now, rather than waiting for the remaining two school buildings in the Chewelah School District to become essentially unusable (as in the case of the classroom areas at the former Chewelah Middle School building), will save every member of the community tax dollars in the long run. The optimum state matching funds are available for the refurbishing of each of the district’s school buildings now. The longer the community waits to correct the facility conditions in these schools, the more the burden of paying for these corrections will fall to the local taxpayers.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 3, Deanna Norvell: “Good education includes quality facilities. By investing in our children we improve the quality of life of everyone in the community. History shows when a town was created one of the first priorities was to build a school; to educate the children. A good school system and appropriate facilities reflects the health of the community. Investing in school infrastructure is a sign we share an optimistic view of the future and a belief in equal opportunities for all. Investing in facilities, education and children makes our community a desirable place to live. It can increase the likelihood of attracting businesses and new community members. Maintaining and improving school infrastructure/facilities in the present is good stewardship; it respects those who have contributed in the past and recognizes that others will contribute in the future.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 4, Tim Whitley: “Financially, the construction will put an estimated $200,000 into the City of Chewelah. The Chewelah School District facilities are used by different organizations throughout the year, all of those users would benefit from upgraded facilities. On a more personal level, I think a building remodel/upgrade would make the students a more vibrant, engaged and cohesive student body, and I think the student body will carry those characteristics over into the community. Who doesn’t want to live, and who doesn’t benefit from a community that is vibrant and engaged? Sound like a stretch? Ask our neighboring school districts to the north and to the south, you’ll hear from communities that are very proud of their facilities and given the chance they’d do it again in an instant.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 1, Citizens for Kids Bond Committee Chair, John Eminger: “Good schools are the foundation of any healthy, thriving community. Good schools protect property values. Strong public schools matter to all of us, whether or not we have children or grandchildren in the Chewelah School system. By educating all children – economically disadvantaged children, affluent children and children with disabilities – strong K-12 public education helps build a stronger, better educated workforce to run local businesses, educational and cultural institutions and non-profits along with attracting and retaining high quality employers offering good, well-paying jobs. Good schools can also break the cycle of poverty that impacts many areas of our Chewelah community and stimulate economic growth - people who graduate from high school earn more and spend more, contributing to individual and community prosperity along with increasing property values. At the individual level, the quality of education offered here has improved residents’ income and employment, leading to improved earnings and improved physical and mental health. At the level of the local community, the quality of education offered has led to improved housing values and reduced crime rates, increased tax revenues, and increased civic participation. And finally, at the level of the larger community in which the City of Chewelah and the Chewelah School District are located, the educational quality contributes to increased contributions and reduced participation in social support programs.”
How can this bond help the district prepare for the future?
Chewelah School Board Chair, Pos. 5, Loretta Burkey: “We need to be fiscally responsible and maintain our facilities for our young people. The state match funds to do this project will probably never be at this rate again. My husband and I no longer have children in Chewelah schools, however, someone paid the taxes to provide proper facilities for them, and it’s our turn to do that for the next generations of students.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 2, Clint Kirry: “School facilities which clearly offer students a better learning environment and a more complete learning experience will attract and keep families who have chosen to live elsewhere after viewing Chewelah’s current school buildings. The condition of current facilities have prompted former community members to move to school districts that offer their children a better educational experience. This reason to leave (or to not join) this community would evaporate if the district’s school facilities were properly updated. A community with a vibrant and well supported school system will better attract young families and businesses to the area. This will lead to a wider (and stronger) tax base which will, by spreading the tax liability over that larger base, lead also to lower individual tax burdens in the future.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 3, Deanna Norvell: “Passing this bond meets our current and future needs and ensures our school buildings serve the students and community well into the future. The improvement, remodel and new construction increases access to needed technology; allows for reconfiguration of the building layout for safety; provides accessibility for those with disabilities; provides upgrades to mechanical systems for greater efficiency and provides an environment conducive to learning for all the children. Children who will one day be productive citizens of this community.”
Chewelah School Board Director, Pos. 4, Tim Whitley: “By improving and supporting the current technology that is utilized for teaching and learning and by being proactive in expecting and being prepared for growth in that same arena.”
Chewelah School Board member, Pos. 1, Bond Committee Chair, John Eminger: “The 2015 bond request for Chewelah Schools supports strong public schools by providing more academic options for students to better prepare them for the 21st-century workforce, relieving overcrowded schools and providing much-needed renovations and up-grades for older schools. Strong public schools matter to our youth. A good education prepares them to be successful in a challenging, global economy and helps them to become more engaged citizens. The Bond will improve instruction as we strive for teaching and learning excellence in every educational setting. Our goal is to provide all our kids with access to the education and technologies they will need to be successful in high school, college, well-paid jobs of the future, and life. Safe, modern school facilities and technology are essential to student achievement. As school facilities and classroom technologies are improved, teaching and learning will benefit.”
By Jamie Henneman, The Independent Staff