Our Views: Parkview residents should share views on school district’s future

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Orfordville Parkview School District residents face a big decision about the future of district facilities. Next April, officials likely will pose a multimillion-dollar referendum to improve Parkview’s school buildings.

Fortunately, residents have a big opportunity to share their hopes and concerns before the question goes to voters.

A $5 million referendum in April 2012 failed by a more than 3-to-1 margin. A facilities planning committee has been exploring new options with estimates ranging from $7 million to $19 million.

Why might residents approve a hefty price tag when they resoundingly rejected a smaller one? Because the 2012 plan seemed ill-conceived. It sought to add 13 classrooms and a new gym at Orfordville’s elementary school and to close the Footville and Newark schools. It seemed odd to build a new gym to play high school sports at the elementary school. Besides, most residents likely realize the high school has the most pressing needs. It’s inadequate for today’s needs, particularly in infrastructure to accommodate technology. Had the 2012 referendum passed, residents knew it was only a matter of time before the district posed one to upgrade the high school.

While rejecting that proposal, residents also elected three new board members from Footville. The board then closed Newark, despite efforts of residents in that region to keep the school open. Most Footville residents likely would prefer to keep their school, as well. It’s central to the village’s sense of community. But they might be more willing to consolidate all facilities in nearby Orfordville and help the district operate more efficiently now that Newark has closed.

Even if district residents deem expansion or new construction too costly, Parkview’s aging buildings need upgrades that will cost millions. Fixes would only bandage relics that are below modern education standards at a time when many students are leaving the district for better facilities elsewhere.

Some residents suggest it might be best to disband the district and send kids to nearby schools. That’s simplistic. Property values would plummet. Kids would face long bus rides. Parkview would be split among neighboring districts, likely leaving property owners with even higher tax rates.

The committee will refine its ideas Sept. 24 and present options to the public Oct. 15. A consultant working with the committee sees that later meeting as the best chance for residents to share feedback before the district sets a referendum.

The district must improve its buildings to be progressive, to stem the loss of students through open enrollment and to create pride among students, educators, parents and residents in general. Come Oct. 15, residents should voice their views about what level of investment they can accept. The last thing anyone should want is another failed referendum.

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