EDITORIAL: Speak now, or ...

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

It was refreshing to see a crowd at last week's school board meeting. Approximately 25 citizens, including students, appeared to voice their objections to an early start to the school year. Some teachers and administrators not normally present also attended. We applaud public involvement on issues, and expected people opposed to the change to show up. It is logical to assume that those who stayed home supported the switch or didn't really care.

But where has every one been for the last year? The school board has been working diligently to address the physical needs of the secondary schools and athletic facilities for future use. Whether more families move into the district next year or in three years, they surely will come, and we need to be ready. And as per the 20-year cycle for state reimbursement for building projects, now is the time to renovate or expand and get the maximum financial help, rather than use only local tax dollars to fund the projects at a later date.

For the past year there has not been a peep from citizens at school board meetings about the building plans. Other than adults in the audience when their children are part of a presentation, or high school students attending as a requirement for a class, public interest in the meetings is lax. No one from the community has stood during the comment period to share their opinions on the building project. The board has incrementally moved forward, and just authorized spending over $200,000 on design plans. This after they heard from the architect and financial advisor on the needs of the aging buildings, arrangement of space to add more classrooms and share common areas, and how to raise the money to pay for it all. The room full of people was offered a chance to comment on the presentation. Not one person said a word.

It is not hard to predict that people will be upset when the board finalizes the construction plan. They will fuss about the mill increase. They will think the improvements are not necessary. What they should really do is kick themselves. The time to pay attention is now. The board is basing its decisions on sound reasoning and the members want you to understand. The silence of the citizenry is deafening, so the logical assumption is you support the board's actions or you don't care.

The information is out there. No one should complain when it is too late. People can know the board's rationale by reading the newspaper or attending the meetings. There is no other way to keep abreast of the issue. And if you have a strong opinion, voice it during public comment. The board welcomes you.