It seems to me that one of the consequences of writing an opinion column is that folks have the expectation I know about and have an opinion on just about any topic — kind of an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-insightful being with my picture shown with each column for easy identification.
Well, this notion was recently tested when a guy I had never met and who didn’t introduce himself came up to me and asked my opinion on “what the Xenia school board is up to” or words to that effect. I guess he expected me to know what he was talking about, but I had to admit I had no opinion because I was ignorant on the subject – I just flat out didn’t know. The gist of this short conversation was that I muttered something about “looking into” the matter — after all I gotta live up to expectations, right?
Well, while trying to figure out a way to resolve this dilemma, the answer showed up the next Saturday in a couple of front page headlines in the Xenia newspaper. One read. “Complex would offer tornado safety” while a second read, “New Xenia school buildings would be major upgrade.”
These stories were about a new high school and a middle school to be paid for by a 37 year bond issue the Xenia school board has placed on the upcoming November ballot. Frankly, this was the first inkling I had this issue was on the ticket — although I have since been assured by unimpeachable authority that development of the plan for these new schools and the bond issue have been front page news stories in the local newspaper for a year or so. Don’t know how I missed them but I did.
My knowledge base expanded a few days later when a long-time friend shared a “fact sheet” she had gotten in the mail about the project. This document, which reportedly will be sent to all Xenia school district voters before election day, cites an Ohio School Facilities Commission assessment which described the current middle and senior high schools as having: “water damaged ceilings, leaking and failing plumbing, rusted and collapsed pipes with failing shut-off valves, insufficient and outdated heating, ventilation, and electrical systems, lack of fire suppression systems, … and several other problem areas that need costly repairs, updates, or replacements.”
Furthermore, the commission recommended replacing the buildings, not repairing them. Aha, things were beginning to fall into place.
OK, moving on to how to remedy the situation. The two new schools would be located at the intersection of US Route 42 and US Route 35 in southwest Xenia – not far from the proposed site of the ill-fated “under one roof” proposal of several years ago. The size of this new joint high school/ middle school campus will be 106 acres. Yep, that’s right – 106 acres – which I found a bit surprising, but school planners gotta think big, right?
The most important question is how to pay for these new schools – after all that’s the issue on the ballot. As it turns out, this is one of those propositions offered by the state where the state will contribute about $28.8 million of state taxpayer money “contingent upon the passage of a bond issue to fund [the] … local share [of about $35.7 million.”]
According to the fact sheet, the real kicker in this offer is that if the bond issue fails the state money goes away and the local school district must fund the repairs to the high school and middle school locally. Quite an incentive, isn’t it? “Free” money is hard to turn down.
I have found some scattered, unorganized opposition such as those who are concerned about additional taxes on top of those brought on by the recent Xenia elementary school building program and by those who note this new campus would require additional funding for maintenance. Others question the safety of the new buildings. Proponents of the project are perhaps typified by a retired teacher who told me, “I’m for anything supporting the schools. Besides, I can afford it.”
OK, back to the original question about my opinion. I’m sure the folks who have worked so long in coming up with this well organized plan are doing so to benefit both the students and the community — new, modern schools are attractive to new business. Those opposed to this project also have their legitimate concerns.
As for me, I’ll pass — no opinion — and folks in Fairborn who are apparently considering a similar bond issue please don’t ask me to “look into it.” The perception of my being all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-insightful has already taken quite a hit. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.