Letter to the editor – Keith Van Beek

Dear Greene County Residents,

I’ve heard the sentiment, “Why do we need a new school? We are a retirement community, and no young families will want to move here” in light of the upcoming bond issue.

My wife Kelsie and I made the decision to move to Greene County a little over two years ago. We had zero connection to the area. So what brought us here, you ask? We were looking for a rural town similar to where we grew up (she was born and raised in Nevada and I was born and raised in Sheldon). Our requirements were that it had to be within one hour of Des Moines and Ames, an easy drive to both our parents, in need of a dentist and, finally, a town we could see ourselves planting roots and raising our family. 1, 2, 3, check, check, check. But could we see our future in Greene County?

As we started researching the town, we learned about the new casino, new grocery stores, the recently completed overpass, Thomas Jefferson Gardens and the revitalization process that was beginning in the downtown, to name just a few of the county’s recent improvements. We made contact with some younger families already living in Greene County, which gave us a sense of community before we even arrived.

Additionally, during our research we were informed that Greene County Community School District was going to be voting on a school bond! It excited us that the county would be investing in their schools and children, ultimately sealing the deal for us to move to Greene County and start a business. Fast forward and the bond failed to pass twice, which was extremely disappointing at the time. In hindsight I am thankful they failed, as we now find ourselves with a once in a generation opportunity with the current proposed new high school and regional career academy.

The proposed project is not simply a “re-try” of the first two, nor is it “just a new, shiny building”. The project would provide security and accessibility for all students, which is not possible with the current middle school. It would increase learning spaces by 200 square feet for both the middle and high school students, allowing students to better learn collaboratively.

Beyond these necessary facility upgrades, the biggest advantage over previous proposals is the career academy, which would provide real-world educational opportunities for kids as well as training and continuing education for adults.

Many industries in Greene County would utilize this pipeline to help sustain a trained, local workforce, ultimately keeping their businesses and employees in Greene County.

Additionally it will attract new businesses such as the recent announcement of Pillar Technology, who would renovate a mainstreet building and create 25-30 new, well-paying software development jobs by teaming up with the career academy to train their future employees. If this bond doesn’t pass, they will likely go elsewhere, along with the career academy and Iowa Central Community College. These are just a few of the many benefits Greene County would realize. The educational and economic benefits make this proposal a no-brainer!

I ask that you use the next few weeks to educate yourself on the proposal. My family chose to move here, and many more young families have made that choice after us. I assure you that this project would attract even more families and businesses to Greene County, bringing with them their economic footprint. This is not just a retirement community, and I hope you join us in voting YES on April 3rd to move education and Greene County forward.

Our future depends on it.

Dr. Keith Van Beek, Jefferson Family Dentistry

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