I began teaching at what was then Warner Junior High in 1973. I taught French, history and civics. I loved my students and they in return mostly loved me too. I still am friends with many, many of them and have fond memories of even more.
Warner was not a new building then, but was in decent shape. It was, however, badly designed form the beginning. For example, the upstairs is divided into two sections fairly far apart that are not reachable from each other without going downstairs and then climbing up stairs to the other part. Needless to say there was no capacity for the thing that would become an integral part of education and our lives, the internet.
Warner is the only school building that not only went through the 1974 tornado, but then had to house all secondary students, of which there were many more in the school system than there are currently, for years afterward. That means a lot of wear and tear. It also means that the outdated physical plant is not only time worn and suffering from overuse, but obsolete. After years and years the state of the building is not a matter of how you maintained it but whether it can reasonably, and economically be maintained. Antiquated systems require parts no longer made, things wear out, rust out, break down, and you have to settle for trying to put lipstick on a pig.
My understanding is that if the system were to undertake a remodel and renovation attempt, that the state monies for such would be slim or none. On the other hand building a new, modern, more-functional, efficient and more physically attractive building would draw a much larger contribution from state funds. Considering that, it would be folly not to build a new building.
Therefore, the district has decided to put a levy on the fall ballot. The levy would cost a home owner of a $100,000 house a little less than $8 a month or slightly less than $2 a week. I have sincere doubts that even the most financially strapped parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and residents cannot find $2 a week to improve education for our middle school students.
Education is vital. The condition of the building has an impact on education from instruction to morale to feeling valued for faculty, staff, students, and the community. Good schools mean higher property values and increase the ability to draw in more new, desirable, community members, all of whom are interested in good schools. New residents improve the tax base and make it less likely fewer people will have to pay the bills.
The smart thing to do is tear down the current building, I hope to get a scrap for my memories, and build a lovely new facility we can all be proud of. There is a saying in education: “A good teacher tells her students where to look, not what to see.” I am going to break with that sage advice just this once. I am asking that you look at the facts and see that our students, teachers and staff deserve a new, more-functional building. The current Warner building served us well, even in disastrous times, but, it is time to let it go.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and columnist.