Remember Who The School Building Levy Is About

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Over the past few weeks, we have heard people talking about reasons why they will not support District 777’s proposed $26.3 million building levy. They say that if the school board is going to get rid of the indoor swimming pool, they won’t support the referendum. Some say they don’t like some members of the school board. Other people say they dislike the administration. Some have a generally poor attitude toward our schools.

For these people, we have a couple simple questions: Is this levy vote about you rather than the future of the education of our children? Are your grievances more important than our community’s educational and economic health for years to come? If you answered, “Yes” to both those questions, we would advise against reading the rest of this column. However, for our readers who are sitting on the fence with their decision, we would very much like for you to consider just what we are voting for Aug. 14.

What this levy would do is consolidate daycare, pre-school and Discovery Kids at the Northside Elementary in a new addition to the west end. The Northside will also see expanded recreational space and a new cafeteria that frees the gym (partially used for serving meals now) for activities.

Rather than spending millions renovating the 1928 Junior High Auditorium, or the 1950 Junior High classroom building, we will have a new performing arts center. It will give our community a facility we can take pride in and will be attractive to people considering sending their children to our schools.

Adding new classrooms and remodeling existing space at the Benson Senior High School would bring it up to date with 21st Century innovative learning approaches.

There will be new space for training students in workforce skills needed by local manufacturers, businesses and healthcare services that just might keep them here after graduation.

The project also features new security measures for the high school and Northside, both of which, unfortunately, are needed these days.

The quality of school facilities and the education provided students is one of the top three requirements for new medical staff we try to recruit to our community.

If a swimming pool is more important than bringing doctors or nurses to our community, keeping our clinic and hospital healthy, than do what is best for you.

Quality daycare facilities, especially for infants and toddlers, are a significant factor in attracting young families to our community. We desperately need those young families to fill the job openings and enroll their children in our schools. Each child is worth about $8,000 is state education funding. It doesn’t take many new children enrolled in our schools to keep a well-liked and respected teacher on staff.

If your dislike of administrators and wanting a pool is more important than quality daycare facilities to attract young families to the area and keeping teachers on staff, then vote against the levy.

When employers like CNH, Custom Roto-Mold, the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, Glacial Plains and Agralite recruit employees, quality schools and daycare facilities are a significant factor in whether those recruits will give us a good look, or pass us by without a second thought. When Swift County, the City of Benson, and Benson Public Schools recruit new employees they face the same challenges as private industry and main street.

If your issues with a school board member, or the school in general, are more important than businesses and local governments being able to attract new employees who bring their children to our schools, strengthening our ability to offer a wider variety of classes to kids and keeping quality teachers here, then vote against the building levy.

For some voters in the district, their stand against the levy referendum has nothing to do with quality schools, modern educational facilities, or great daycare facilities for our young families; it has nothing to do with the ability of our medical facilities to attract doctors, surgeons, nurse practitioners, and nurses; it has nothing do with our local businesses that are trying to bring employees to our area to replace retiring Baby Boomers, or fill spaces they have available due to growing opportunities; it has nothing to do with a healthy main street created by more residents moving to the community. It is solely about their wants and needs.

Their anger, dissatisfaction with staff, and unhappiness with school board decisions from the pool to athletics, is far more important than a quality education in 21st century education facilities for our children.

We aren’t saying everyone’s complaints don’t have some legitimacy. But if you don’t like the way things are being run at Benson Public Schools, get involved as a citizen. You want a pool at Benson High School? Run for office; talk to your friends about running for office. Ask candidates if they will support your agenda. Voters can change school boards; administrators can be replaced by a school board elected by citizens.

We would be willing to bet that administrators, and school board members, would tell you what the paragraph above says. They would also say, whether you like us or not, the future of the educational facilities we provide our children comes first. Pass the levy then pursue your complaints as an involved citizen.

Of course, once sitting on the school board the pressing issues facing our district will begin to make you realize that it is much easier to complain than to make tough decisions. Those decisions must be made based on the reality of financial figures laid on the table in front of you, the challenges of declining enrollment, and the cost of trying to maintain aging buildings that should have been replaced long ago.

We love Benson’s indoor pool. We think it is an asset. We also understand that it doesn’t get the use that justifies its cost of operation. Our school has a pressing need for additional gym space, and the pool area offers options – it is a larger space than the auxiliary gym at the senior high.

The plan before voters was developed by fellow citizens who studied in-depth the needs of our students, community, and businesses. They looked hard at the costs and options. The plan before us is the best set of proposals for meeting the needs of our children and community. To delay action further would not only be an abandonment of our responsibility to those children but also to our business community.

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