By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
I went into last night’s forum with a clear idea of who I thought I favored, and who I thought I didn’t. But after the forum, I will have to re-evaluate my preferences.
That’s why we have forums.
We need to listen to our candidates, get a feel for the type of board member they would be, or continue to be, and then make decisions on how we would cast our vote.
There were some very good statements made last night, but there were some missed opportunities as well.
Let’s start with the “portable” classrooms and security.
Clearly, these trailer house classes are impossible to secure.
Right now, the biggest change in schools is to limit the number of entrances so that security can be maintained at a few points of entry.
With these trailer house classrooms, they each have two exterior doors, one per class. Someone looking to do harm wouldn’t have to deal with administration or security at all. All they would have to do was walk right up to the classroom door, go in and reign terror on a classroom full of children.
That’s how vulnerable our district is city-wide.
That’s one of many reasons why “portable” classrooms are an absolute failure.
First, they aren’t very “portable.” They have cinder block skirtings. They are not very efficient to heat and cool. The walls are fibrous and do not hold up to the elements like brick buildings would.
In other words, when you go on the cheap to put in a “portable” classroom, it costs a lot more to operate than building a traditional building.
If they were “temporary,” like they were supposed to have been, there is only one reason.
You put in a “temporary” classroom until you build a real one. Then you can move the “portable” classroom to another location until you can build a real classroom there.
But that is not what we have done.
We have replaced real school with temporary ones.
Nick Hatcher mentioned that there are 19 of these buildings with two classes each. That is the equivalent of a 38 classes, or two-and-a-half elementary schools.
If these “portable” classes cost $80,000 each, we have spent more than $1.5 million on trailer house schools, classes that were supposed to be temporary.
That doesn’t include the waste on higher heating, cooling and maintenance costs. Taxpayers are getting robbed on this fallacy of saving money on “portable” classrooms, and it is time to stop the insanity.
There has been a consistent reason why we have chosen not to build. For one, the plans always seem to originate from an outside firm rather than our own community leaders, parents, teachers and residents coming together to evaluate the needs and creating a solution.
Another reason is there has always been a feeling that many of the school-age families will be moving out of town at some time, and there seems to be little local benefit in educating kids who won’t be living and working in Liberal.
When I went to school, oil and gas brought a lot of people in and out of town.
Today, meat packing and agricultural related businesses are doing the same.
Here’s the thing, we have always had a fear that we would build a school and then everyone would move out of town, and they would be empty.
The problem is, through the transiency, Liberal is consistently growing. Every census for 50 years has shown more people in Liberal than the census before.
Enrollment continues to climb with the growing community.
That means more schools come with it.
That’s not all bad, but if we would have simply built brick classrooms, we would have been better suited to address the growth rather than adding another “portable” classroom.
Now, we are stuck with having to consider a more expensive solution because we haven’t handled our growth effectively.
If we experience a tragedy in one of these “portable” classrooms, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
There was another question about the ability for teachers to have a weapon.
Most candidates said their answer would be no, but that they might be persuaded to think otherwise.
Crystal Clemens provided a solid answer by sharing that she was an NRA member, and she had discussed the issue with law enforcement.
One of the issues would be for officers to recognize the good guys from the bad guys in a hostile situation.
If teachers who are trained and armed identified themselves as such to law enforcement, that problem would be alleviated.
Good security did not help Newtown, Conn., and the Colorado theater shooter searched for a place that did not allow weapons.
Our children are very vulnerable right now in our district. I have two daughters in this district, and I would refuse to send them to a trailer house school to be educated after what I have seen and heard.
The district knows this is a problem. They are liable if they do not fix it.