As I sat in the combined Worthington Middle School and Worthington High School orchestra concert last night I was struck by several epiphanies at once.
1) We are blessed to have such a terrific music program in our school district. Hundreds of District 518 students are involved in music in some way – whether through orchestra, choir or band. (Not to mention the elementary kids who all receive music instruction once a week.) The kids sound great – but more than that, they are learning to work together, to challenge themselves, and to be well-rounded individuals, exercising both sides of their brain to the benefit of themselves and everyone else as well.
2) We do not want these programs to end. Numerous studies have shown that students who are involved in music are better overall in academics. They tend to score better on nationwide tests, and music has been shown to stimulate many parts of the brain at once, proving to be beneficial for all-around brain development. In addition, our music programs give kids opportunities to grow as leaders and to come together as a unified school, standing or sitting beside all the diverse students in our district.
3) If we do not pass the Building Bond Referendum and the Operating Levy on November 5th, then all of this – and more – is going to be jeopardized.
Did you know that in both the high school choir and band their teachers have to release them early from class, section by section, because otherwise they’d literally be stepping on each other to put their folders and instruments away? I cannot imagine what would happen if there was an emergency situation and they all had to get out at once.
But the music program isn’t the only thing with inadequate space or terrible emergency scenarios. The stairwell from the upper high school classrooms down to the lower hall is woefully inadequate – and unsafe – for the wall-to-wall students that fill that space several times a day. There simply is not room for the 26% growth our school district has seen in the last seven years.
In addition, there isn’t enough cafeteria space, particularly at Prairie and the high school. Children at Prairie Elementary are forced to wolf down their food in order to make way for the next wave of children coming in. One wee girl last week was told to finish eating now, only she was still hungry so she stood up to take her tray to the garbage while still munching on her apple only to be told by another person that she was not allowed to eat while walking. She began to cry. I don’t mean to be overly-emotional, but that’s ridiculous. Children ought to have enough time and space to finish their meal.
Over at the high school it’s the same situation. Kids who are unfortunate enough to be at the end of the lunch line have ten minutes to eat. And if you have to use the restrooms between class, good luck not being tardy to your next class because the number of bathrooms is completely inadequate for the number of students who need to use them.
Prairie Elementary was built to have 48 classrooms. They’re using 51 now and will need two more next year. What space are they using? Art rooms and conference rooms. No, it’s not the end of the world. But what will they do next year? There are no more art rooms to take over. We cannot have our children in storage closets.
Enrollment will only continue to increase. The babies have been born already to prove it. If we do not pass the building bond referendum, the issue will come back next year and will more than likely cost even more money. I understand that the cost is tough to swallow. I do not own a large chunk of land, so those who do may be thinking that it’s easy for me to support this as it’s not going to affect me as harshly as it will them. BUT WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO? Our children need safe places to be educated. They benefit from the small class sizes that we have now (22 on average at the Kindergarten level). Do we want to raise our student/teacher ratios? Because if the vote fails, that is a reality we may have to face in the not so distant future.
But this election is not just about small ratios and additional music space. It’s about giving the high school science program adequate lab space. It’s about keeping the valuable classes that we currently offer and not having to cut “less important” programs like Ag or AP offerings. It’s about giving the special education kids at Prairie their own space rather than having them meet in public commons areas. It’s about giving the school district the money they need to adequately house and educate our kids.
If the building referendum and operating levy do not pass, then our class sizes will increase and our class offerings will decrease. It’s as simple as that.
Please VOTE YES on Tuesday, November 5th. Our kids need you.