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Health of our community at stake with referendum

Earlier this year an attempt to address the well-documented overcrowding in our schools was defeated in a public vote. I have always been a supporter of fighting for educational opportunities for the future leaders we are raising in our community, so an effort was made to assemble a "think tank group" that represented as many different areas of this great community as possible.

The group was comprised of around 20 people and met approximately 6 times. There were representatives from our retail sector, manufacturing sector, farm community, retirees, minority community, parents of school children and 1 teacher as the only person involved with the school. This was not a group of "Yes voters". We needed to hear from people who may have voted "No" to find out what needed to be done to address the issue at hand in a way that would be palatable for most in our community. The only "qualification" we asked of people when we contacted them was to acknowledge we have a problem with overcrowding in our schools that needed to be addressed.

We spent a lot of time listening... listening to understand perspectives that may have been very different from our own. In doing so, all involved learned to consider solutions very differently than we may have previously. Fears of what effect the previous $68 million referendum may have had on our farm community currently in the middle of challenging times were discussed at length...concerns about what if enrollment projections dont come to fruition as predicted...anxiety from the retail community to voice support and risk retaliation by some was also heard...some in the retiree community voiced concern that it may have been too big of an increase while on a fixed income.

The main part of the previous referendum was to construct a new high school, this was projected to solve the growing enrollment problem for 15-20 years into the future. This would have been great from student educational perspective, but for the reasons mentioned above did not pass the public vote.

The recommendation from our group was to find a solution with a price tag under $40 million that may get us the space necessary to educate our students for the next 10 years or so. The logic for this included the fact that in the next 5-6 years the bonds for two previous referendums (those which built Prairie Elementary and allowed additions to both the Middle School and High School) will be retired, meaning gone from our property tax statements...resulting in LOWER taxes. It also was felt that the enrollment projections for the 10 year period would be more reliable than looking 15-20 years out, so as not to overbuild.

The proposal is to build an intermediate school for grades 3-5, which would accommodate 900 students at a cost of $35 million. The building would be designed in such a way that it could be added on to in the future if enrollment growth necessitates. I truly believe this is the most cost effective solution to the issue we are going to see.

I consider Worthington my home and I care very much about my home. A group of people also cared enough to donate many hours of their time to put forward a solution for our school overcrowding issue to be accepted and adopted by the District 518 school board. Now it is up to the voters, you have heard all of the facts about the issue at hand. I truly believe the future health of our community is at stake. Please sort out the noise you may be hearing about anything other than the issue at hand...Our schools are bursting at the seams, it needs to be addressed now.

This is a paid endorsement letter to the editor.