On June 25, Cedar Falls voters will go to the polls to endorse or defeat a two-part referendum on a proposed $69.9 million bond issue for a new high school. Proposition A is a vote on the bond issue itself; Proposition B is a vote on the annual property tax levy. The referendum requires a supermajority to pass — 60% approval.
This is the second time voters have voted on building the new high school. Let us hope it’s the final one.
There are many compelling reasons to vote yes now. Some of the most pressing:
A. The current building is falling down. Literally.
B. The current building cannot be secured. After renovations are completed on other Cedar Falls schools, the high school will be the only one in town that does not have a single secured access point. There is no way to keep our children safe there. Certainly, we can all agree this is not acceptable.
C. The existing high school will be over capacity this coming school year, in 2019-2020. Projected growth is more than 1,000 additional students in the community in the next 10 years. We would not run a business this way, nor our households. Imagine bringing home your new baby and sticking him in the broom closet because you hadn’t bothered to prepare. We need to instigate our plan for the future now. It is already here.
D. There are severe limitations in accessibility for special needs students, those with disabilities and senior citizens attending events at the high school. This is not OK. It’s not only not OK, it is in violation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act passed in 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act approved in 1990.
E. There is no air conditioning in two-thirds of the building, and what is in place is slapdash. Remember, school starts in August and often ends in June. True, the alums had no air conditioning, and they survived. But if we’re running on that premise, let’s toss our cellphones and go back to rotary dial landlines. Or, we could see how many students we can cram in the Little Red Schoolhouse and call it good.
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Look at the coming bond vote as an investment. Because it is. A very real one. Home values appreciate when a community is progressive. Businesses want to locate in a vicinity that values education and supports it with municipal resources. Do not let this opportunity pass.
The time is now. Whether advocates of the new high school can weather yet another run trying to convince voters is doubtful. If we don’t act, the problem might very well take care of itself. Those in the know will leave the area to find communities supportive of the educational facilities of their children. Do we want our community left behind?
Tours of the current high school have been taking place for months, and meetings addressing its various issues have been going on for years. Every citizen in Cedar Falls has had the chance to give feedback and to become involved.
If you have not attended any of these meetings or tours and you plan to vote no, instead schedule a day trip June 25 and check out progressive communities that have recently passed bond issues and invested in their schools. Hit Council Bluffs ($37 million, 2018), or Sioux Center ($24.9 million, 2019). And be sure to visit Iowa City, where they passed a $191.5-million bond issue in 2017.
Our Board of Education and proponents of the new high school have done their homework, plus every possible bit of extra credit work. They have addressed the concerns of the citizens and have found solutions. They have presented a thoughtful, measured and comprehensive plan. (Including the future planned uses for the Division Street high school.) Granted, a new high school doesn’t solve every problem in education. But it does solve every problem with the old high school. And that’s what we’re voting on.
Cedar Falls High School opened in 1954, 65 years old this year. It’s been a long and glorious run. Time now to throw a grand retirement party.
And time, as well, to show our commitment to education and to the future of our children and of Cedar Falls by voting yes on June 25.