Archive for Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Shouts and Murmurs

Citizens’ input important to plan

March 3, 2004

Around Tonganoxie it's hard to bypass talk of school construction.

It's in the cafes, it's on the streets and it's buzzing across telephone lines.

The opinions vary from the blustery: They don't need a new school, to calm acceptance: Of course we need a new school.

Pro or con, it seems everyone has an opinion about school construction -- and the estimated $25.6 million it would cost.

But hold a community forum to discuss the topic, and nobody shows up.

Or at least only a handful of the district's 4,916 registered voters shows up.

If we didn't know better, we'd think nobody cared.

At last Thursday's school community forum, about 30 people attended. Of those, most were school employees, school volunteers or their spouses. Others represented the firms hired to work with the district on financial planning or construction. And among the group, finally, there were a few faces of those whom the forum organizers were hoping to reach -- the general public.

Jack Wolfe, one of these few who attended, later said that unless hundreds of people voice their opinions, there's little chance of changing the direction the board is taking.

There's probably some merit to what he says. After all, the planning has been in the works for more than two years. Dozens of meetings have been held to study the possibilities, and in the end, the school board and administration settled on a plan that they believe will take care of the district's growth for at least 10 years.

But that doesn't mean they're not listening to voters.

It's difficult now to comprehend the growth the area may experience in the future. Just last week the city approved a development that will include 51 homes. Every day, construction crews continue work on new homes in other developments.

Tonganoxie last year was ranked the third fastest-growing city in Kansas. As the growth continues, it's evident that eventually, the schools will outgrow their capacity. With more than 800 students currently attending the elementary school, that time is fast approaching.

In all likelihood, most of us agree that something needs to be done about schools. These next two public forums, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday and April 5 at Tonganoxie Elementary School, will give district patrons a chance to make their opinions known.

Whatever thoughts anyone may have about the construction of a new school and renovation of existing facilities, should be aired at these meetings.

I urge district patrons -- not just the ones who feel they must attend -- to go to the upcoming two community forums. The bottom line is, it's your community. A decision of this magnitude -- the investment of $25.6 million in school construction -- requires the input of many.

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