The Times West Virginian

Opinion

October 28, 2012

School bond should address the most pressing North Marion needs

When voters head to the polls next week, they will have the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” for the Marion County Board of Education’s bond call.

We think that vote should be “no.”

We realize that the $10 million project to build North Marion High School a new commons area and gymnasium is a need. But what this county needs even more is a new middle school in Monongah and a renovated Mannington Middle School.

That makes this bond the wrong bond.

Please keep in mind that the Times West Virginian over the past 13 years has supported every bond call brought before the voters. But this is one we can’t endorse.

In fact, to suggest that this bond call be passed instead of one that actually meets the urgent needs of such a big part of our educational system is doing a disservice to the North Marion attendance area.

The practical, responsible and right thing to do is to give the North Marion area the two middle schools it needs, just as the West and East attendance areas were given by the voters in the past two successful bond calls.

The obstacles stopping the BOE from giving the North Marion area these schools? Lack of available land in Monongah and the apparent opposition of the School Building Authority to fund a complete renovation as opposed to new construction.

We’ve been hearing these arguments for months. Bur rather than hand voters a different bond, county officials should have been asking the governor’s office, state board of education and SBA to sit down with them and insist for funds to renovate Mannington Middle School and funds for a new Monongah Middle School. They should have been finding the land for a Monongah Middle School. They should have been demanding that the North Marion area gets what East and West have.

Those involved with the bond think it’s better to address some of the needs in the North Marion attendance area now and keep the momentum going, rather than doing nothing at all.

“We just felt that this approach was more acceptable to the citizens than trying to pass one very large bond,” Superintendent of Schools Gary Price has explained. “We find ourselves in a position where we feel that this is a good time to put this bond before the citizens because the interest rates are so low. We feel that it would be a good purchase for them.”

But would it be?

Would it be better to give the East and West attendance area one thing while North gets something on a smaller scale?

Would it be better to continue acknowledging a great need — officials have said the BOE recently adjusted its Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan and has recommitted itself to focusing on the needs of Monongah Middle School and Mannington Middle School as its next two projects — while still putting it off?

We don’t think it would be.

The bond being put before voters is simply a bond for the sake of having one. The needs it addresses — a new commons area and gym at NMHS — pale in comparison to the true needs — new and renovated middle schools — of the North Marion attendance area.

Putting off those needs any longer puts those communities in danger of losing their schools in favor of a consolidated middle school just a few years down the road. That means students would have to leave their own communities to sit on buses for long stretches of time to make it to a new facility that has no community identity at all.

Based on feedback at public meetings, the communities don’t want to lose the existing schools in their towns because they are convenient for the students and parents, make the communities special and are a big part of the towns.

So as voters head to the polls next week, they must ask themselves: Does the North Marion area deserve better?

We think it does.

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