I’m writing to ask you to please vote "yes" on Issue 3, a school levy to renovate and rebuild several schools in the Athens City School District. Although our teachers and school staff work hard to create welcoming learning environments, if you take a careful look at the buildings, you will see that they are in serious disrepair and need more than simple fixes. Our children need safe, healthy, high-quality spaces to learn in. I am a member of the ABC Committee (Vote Yes For Athens City School District on Facebook), but I am writing this letter as an individual.
There is a lot of misinformation being spread about this levy and I’d like to share some facts related to three of the most common myths I’ve seen.
One myth is that the levy is just too expensive and will cost students too much. First, I’d like to believe that the majority of the student body recognizes the importance of investing in children’s futures. Second, the costs are not as high as some would have you believe. When I moved here and bought a house, there were three students renting it. Based on the current appraised value of my home, if a landlord passed on the entire cost of the levy to the renters, it would cost each renter just under $10 a month.
A second myth is that the district has a hidden pot of money they could use to renovate our schools. This is simply not true. The district is trying desperately to keep up with repairs just to keep our schools functional.
Finally, some people will say that the schools are not that bad and can do with a few touch ups. Just to share a few of the problems, the middle school was almost unable to open at the start of the year because a water pump needed to be replaced. Morrison-Gordon Elementary has had several room tests coming back with unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide in the air because of inadequate ventilation. At The Plains Elementary, if the ventilation breaks down and dehumidifiers are not run regularly, mold will grow overnight. Some of our heating and cooling systems are so old that they no longer make replacement parts and the district must buy old ones from other districts. The high school has thin walls and many of the rooms have little or no natural light. None of our schools have modern secure entrances—at some schools you do not even pass the office when you enter the building.
It is time for the children of Athens to have safe, healthy, high-quality schools. The problems listed above are widespread, systemic and go well beyond simple repairs. Please vote "yes" on Issue 3 this fall!
Mathew Felton-Koestler is an associate professor of teacher education at Ohio University.