Letter: Schools need space to provide quality educationPlease vote for the school facilities bond referendum on the November ballot. Much of the discussion about this question has centered on finances.
By: Heidi Jones, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
Please vote for the school facilities bond referendum on the November ballot. Much of the discussion about this question has centered on finances.
While current interest rates, the cost of construction materials and the district’s debt structure are all favorable to proceeding with the elementary school expansion now, I support this project primarily on the educational merits alone.
For many years now the community has been aware of our space constraints. This was the reason for the movement of fifth and eighth grades to different school buildings.
Even then the district knew that the elementary space would only be adequate for the short term as both Sunnyside and Burnside schools met their capacity. Then we absorbed 80 more students through the closure of local parochial schools. The pressure on instructional space increased.
When Sunnyside was built in the 1950s, it was a fine facility. Today it no longer meets Minnesota Department of Education standards for modern classrooms.
The classrooms were constructed at a time when children didn’t regroup for various learning experiences throughout their day. Now they need collaborative space. Classrooms in the 1950s obviously didn’t allow space for in-class computers, a critical component of 21st century education, which must include computer literacy.
Today our students have many more curriculum materials to assist their learning. The classrooms are literally out of space, especially for kindergarten. Other rooms that have been converted to classrooms to meet class-size reduction goals have narrow hallway access. This is an obstacle to our students with physical challenges.
These are only some of the issues with our current instructional spaces at the elementary level.
While I applaud both the leadership and staff at our elementary schools for continuing to do their best to deliver focused instruction in less than ideal spaces, our students deserve better. The expansion of Burnside School will provide an appropriate learning environment for all students. The ability to offer individualized instruction will be greatly improved. The new classrooms will include room for group activity, computer access and curriculum materials. Special education, art, music, computer, and English language learner classes will have the space they need.
With the elementary facilities plan, an exciting possibility of relocating early childhood programming at Sunnyside exists. The classrooms would meet the needs for our preschoolers. We know that early childhood learning plays a critical role in preparing children for success in school. We need to reach more 3- and 4-year-olds in the community.
If you have questions about the facilities bond question, please contact the superintendent, the finance director and School Board members. We’d be happy to talk with you. We want you to make an informed vote Nov. 6.
Heidi Jones serves on the Red Wing School Board.