Letter to the editor – Peg Raney

Letter to the editor,

I am writing in support of the upcoming school bond issue that I supported quietly the last time. I regret that I didn’t speak out and hope others will now speak up too.

I have several perspectives to address. I retired from teaching literature in a classroom on the third floor of the middle school. I purchased my own window air conditioner because I knew that I could not deal with the heat and teach effectively. Yes, I attended a school in a building with no air conditioning, but times have changed.

Our staff spent time in Ogden’s new middle school building that had “pods” with all classrooms surrounding the lockers of each grade level. We tried to incorporate that new, more effective teaching model, but our poor fifth graders had their lockers on the first floor with classes on all floors. You just can’t move the science lab! I felt we were setting many of them up to fail because it is hard to be organized for the day as an 11-year-old.

I instigated literature circles with more discussion involving our books and changed to tables to accommodate that. I knew this was the best way to teach literature, but I had groups sitting in the hallway, on the stairs, and in an old restroom so students could hear each other talk. Twenty-five eighth graders with long legs and big voices can’t work in a small classroom originally used for lectures.

I also had students with physical difficulties who needed to leave the classroom early in order to use the lift on the stairs before all of the other students were dismissed. Missing class time is missing instructional time.

All of the teachers tried their best with the new, more effective strategies of teaching in an old building. Our teachers today are trying their best, too. Kids aren’t learning the way we were taught 50 years ago, and the facilities need to accommodate that.

Good school facilities help economic development. Families who have a choice in where they live and work are looking at the schools. Teachers taking jobs in our system are looking at the schools. This is what we want, isn’t it? We want to educate those kids already here and entice those looking to move here. That is how we can grow! We aren’t going to stay the same no matter how badly some people want to hang on to the past.

The new plans include the middle school classrooms all in one area. Hooray that our middle school can be a true middle school! This will certainly spell success for our students. Sharing staff members across grade levels will certainly be more accessible than “car time” driving between buildings. We have sixth graders who could easily take algebra or other higher level courses, and this would be accommodated in this new plan.

A gym is not just used for athletics. The science fair, music programs, and P.E. classes use the gym, too. I’d love to eat my taco in a bag at a table when attending events at the gym and guessing others would also. Do people realize there is not a cafeteria at the middle school?

I’ll listen to a local teacher working on her master’s degree to teach the K-12 talented and gifted program. If you haven’t met VanderLindens or Lawtons, this is the cream of the crop of new families to our community! These are the families we WANT to locate here. I have only lived here for 38 years and was a new teacher once, too. I also can’t believe people who are lucky enough to have their grandchildren live and go to school in Greene County wouldn’t want the best for them. I will gladly pay property taxes for all of our kids to have updated facilities.

My other perspective is as the Main Street director that promotes use of historic buildings. We had the ISU Retail Scapes class study Jefferson last semester and propose a terrific use for the current middle school as condos on the second and third floors with retail and child care on the first floor. We asked these 22-year-olds to design ideas that would entice them to live in Jefferson. Buildings like this have been remodeled for new uses in many places, and it can work here, too. These students were impressed with our beautiful downtown and community.

I would suggest voters take time to visit the buildings in our current system. Not sure that my dad would have been able to go to Grandparents’ Day or open houses in Grand Junction or the middle school in Jefferson and climb those stairs. Give it a try! Please listen to those who really understand education or have kids going to our school system in making your decision how to vote.

Let’s welcome new ideas and embrace changes that would be good for kids. They are ALL OUR kids, and I will be voting yes for this school bond issue for our future generations.

Peg Raney, Jefferson

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