Even though I am going to vote FOR the bond that will build a new elementary school and high school Science labs in San Saba, I appreciate Mr. Pulatie’s letter to the editor in the September 15, 2011 issue of The San Saba News and Star. I have not been able to understand the reasoning and logic for people being against building much needed facilities at zero rate bonds. Mr. Pulatie’s letter helped me to realize the misunderstanding and misconceptions for the needs of the new facilities.
The Science labs are state mandated. The state mandates are not going away. A temporary building may work for a short time, but it is just a temporary fix. In the long run, it is a poor investment because they will not last long and repair/replacement cost will end up doubling our expenses.
As to his points about the new elementary school: He addressed the drainage issues and the asbestos problems. These two problems would rank the 4th or 5th reasons on my list why we need a new elementary school.
The main issue, in my opinion as an educator and parent, is the safety of the children that go to San Saba Elementary. Pre-K, Kindergarten, First and Second grades all have doors that open to the outside (instead of a hall). These doors have large pieces of glass plus the rooms all have a solid wall of glass windows. If anyone ever decided to break in and abduct a child, there would be very little the teachers/staff would be able to do to protect the children. When a child’s parent comes to check a student out, that student has to walk to the office, unsupervised and unprotected-that is from grades Kindergarten-4th grade, Pre-K has to stop what they are doing and make arrangements for a staff member to walk the child to the office (missed educational opportunity). If you consider the tender age of these students and the special needs of the population, this is a risk that needs to be addressed.
The elementary students are required to walk the equivalent of 3 blocks to go to PE each day (no matter what the weather). They are required to wait as long as 30 minutes in all types of weather to be dismissed at the end of the day. A 30 minute wait in 110 degree weather, or 30 degree weather or pouring down rain is not the best situation for children ages 5-10. The students are required to cross a street from the 3rd/4th grade building to lunch, music and the office. The street is "closed" during school hours, but people are constantly driving through. I personally had to grab a child out of the street so they would not have been run over last year. Kindergarten through Second grade students have to cross the open street each day for PE. They also have to cross the street for access to the computer labs and library.
Student populations are not what people remember from the 1950s and 1960s. We teach many students that are likely to "run" or "sneak" away from their teachers. The openness of our campus puts the students in serious danger. Our school has been written up in the safety audit for this problem several times. We can not pretend that we do not know the risk exist. I hate to be one who would use a "fear tactic" to make my point, but in my opinion, it is not a matter of if a child gets run over, lost or abducted but when.
There is also the matter of the uneven sidewalks. I have seen a teacher fall and fall hard, to the point that she had to have medical treatment because of these cracks. I have also seen students fall. I personally haven’t fallen, but trip on the big cracks that make the sidewalks uneven about 4 times a week.
The students are losing educational opportunity because our campus is spread out over six buildings. Pre-K through Second graders have limited opportunity to go to the computer labs and the library to check out books because they need supervision. It takes our English as a second language teacher, special education teachers and educational specialist extra valuable time to get from building to building to help the students they service. We are not able to teach efficiently because of the lay out of our campus.
Another problem with our campus is the electrical wiring system is out of date and unable to handle the technology required to in today’s classrooms. The Pre-K through Second classes have numerous problems using online technology because of the dated electrical system in the buildings.
So, I ask you to consider the safety and educational needs of San Saba youngest students when you vote on the bond election in November. Our problems are much bigger than water damage and asbestos.
Remember these upcoming dates:
•October 11 – Last day to register to vote
•October 17 – Town Hall meeting @ 6:00 pm in the High School Cafeteria – Share information about upcoming bond election
A great opportunity for the community of San Saba is right around the corner once again, and I would like to take a moment to share my thoughts with the community as a parent of multiple children in the Elementary at San Saba ISD. As a member of this wonderful place we all call home, I want everyone to know that the reason I enjoy serving in various local civic and youth organizations is rather simplistic. I have a passion for and a belief in my local community! This passion continues the values instilled in me and modeled by my family for over four generations in San Saba. I have carried that passion to the SSISD Board of Trustees along with a passion to help our children in this community become more successful, confident, and productive citizens prior to engaging in their own careers and endeavors. Our local educators, parents, grandparents, volunteer organizations, and citizens continually invest in the lives of our children and strive to open doors for them to their future. Our educators are not given enough credit for the awesome task that lies before them each and every day with our students. Yet, they remain focused and intent on making an investment in the future of our community by encouraging all students and showing them that they are important and will soon make significant contributions to our society. The goal of San Saba ISD is to create productive citizens that will press on and continue their education at institutions of higher learning. That goal is met with the best educators, best facilities, and effective maintenance of both, to produce the intended result of highly successful citizens. Our local community of citizens plays a vital role in that success as well. For without community support, the pride and confidence instilled in our children is not reinforced and encouraged outside of the school hallways and classrooms.
The opportunity currently before us is an excellent one that financially is very difficult to argue against. San Saba ISD eagerly sought and applied for funding under the Qualified School Construction Bond Program (QSCB), which is a federal program that provides schools with low interest financing of less than 1% for capital projects. The program requires payments over a 16 year period instead of the 25 year period which is generally typical for public school bonds. This low rate and shorter term essentially provide a savings of over 35% (or approximately 3 million dollars) to the taxpayers under the QSCB plan. That leads us to the next question, "Do we really need it?" Unless you have seen the facilities on campus in question and their condition, I dare say you cannot properly argue against the opportunity. The fact is that our Elementary School continues to deteriorate and it is highly unlikely that any minor changes to it are going to significantly extend its useful life. The safety of our children is of utmost concern and a new school will greatly increase the safety of our students during the school day. A new facility will put them all on one block throughout the school day with no crossing of streets and with much improved security. Additionally, if you are concerned that now is not a "good time" for this opportunity; please consider that it is always a good time to invest in the future of our community and in the future of our children who will represent our community beyond San Saba in the future. With this mindset, there has never been a greater time than now to make an investment in the lives of our children! For those of you asking," Why do we have to vote again?" I would say to you since a great opportunity such as this is rather rare (only 68 schools were approved for funding of the 1,022 schools in the state), I simply suggest we examine it again. There is no harm in such an examination of the facts surrounding the Elementary School and high school science labs for a second time; besides, this opportunity is worth a second look. More extensive information regarding renovation costs versus building new facilities has been obtained and is available at your request. I urge you to go get the information and see what is before you. Become more informed and educated prior to casting your ballot!
I know there are a great number of local citizens who have the same passion and desire to help make San Saba a better place in which to live and to raise our kids. I urge you to consider this opportunity a chance to invest in the future of our local students and in the future of our local community as you vote in the November 8, 2011 election.