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MARCH MANIA PHOTO CONTEST: The Biggest College Basketball Fan

Letter: We can't afford to remain silent about supporting our schools

By Linden Olson and Joel Lorenz, Worthington

We, members of the Worthington (ISD 518) school board, appreciate the support received from many members of our community to relieve the well-documented, severe overcrowding of the district’s educational facilities.Many people have put in a lot of time and effort trying to solve this problem while staying positive about the direction our community and the school district are going. But after the fourth defeat of a bond referendum, we have a few questions for those in different groups we would appreciate answers to.

From our local business and community leaders, we would like to know why so many of you continue to be silent about your support about the need for new investment for the schools in your community. We have heard from several of you that you fear the loss of business if you come out in support of the district proposals  If concern about your bottom line is the reason for your silence, then maybe you can understand why when you ask people to buy local, they instead buy from Amazon or another online source because it will help their bottom line being cheaper and taking less gas and time than buying local.

From our elected city and county officials, we would like to know why many of you have been silent about the well-documented need for new school facilities. You, more than most, are aware of the value of the public school system in attracting and keeping new businesses and families to this community. Are you not aware that local employers are having problems hiring for well-paying positions and have been losing others because they want their children to be educated in a place that that doesn’t “shoehorn” kids into places that were not meant to be classrooms? Your personal and corporate support would be helpful in gaining support for a new school from district voters. The district has been supportive of the Nobles Housing Initiative and other projects that benefit not only the district, but the community as well.

From the parents of children in the schools of the district, we would like to know why more of you are not vocal and visual in the support of additional space for your children? If all the parents of children who are eligible to vote in district elections had voted in favor of the past referendum, it would have passed easily. Why did less than 10 of you show up for the public meetings and less than a handful show up to support the vote yes group? Is this an indication that you want the district to cut the non-essential programs that provide valuable opportunities and experiences for your children and use the savings to build additional spaces?         

From retirees, farmers, and others not included in the groups above who have not supported the past bond referendums — your and your children’s education was paid for by others under economic conditions no better than yours is today. In many cases, they gave up spending for personal wants so you and your children could have a good education. Why are you not willing to do the same for today’s students?

And lastly, for those who vote no because you do not want to pay to educate “those kids.” Who do you suppose will be providing medical care, working to process your food, fix and repair your car, house, appliances and do other jobs that would be too numerous to include — and, oh yes, be the fathers and mothers to your grandchildren or great-grandchildren? Would you want any of these to be uneducated, undereducated or poorly educated? Remember that the space issue affects every student, not just those in certain groups.  

While waiting for your answers, as school board members, we promise to continue to advocate for decisions that will provide district students with a safe and welcoming learning environment and to provide educational opportunities and experiences both in and out of the classroom that will help them become productive, contributing members of whatever community they choose to be a part of.  

With information and compromise, we can come together as a community to find a solution that will be for the good of everyone — not continue to divide this community.  

Doing nothing is not an answer to the space problem facing the district. We would welcome your answers to our questions and any other input you have regarding this issue. We invite you to come and express your opinions during a half-hour public input time during a school board work session on Monday evening, March 11 at 7 p.m. in the High School media center. If you can’t make that meeting, our contact information is listed on the district website at www.isd518.net/school-board.

Linden Olson and Joel Lorenz

Worthington