EDITOR:Iron Mountain has an important election coming up in the next two weeks, and on the ballot is a proposal to enhance the future of the Iron Mountain School District.
Our community takes a lot of pride in our schools and their traditions, and we are looking to build on that pride and tradition to ensure a bright future for our students, and immerse them in a 21st Century style of learning. As voters, you have so many reasons to vote yes.
Over the course of a 10-month examination and planning process, it has been determined that our district needs to address several areas, including safety, security and basic "safe, warm and dry" upgrades. In addition, we must also move into a 21st Century learning environment with a foundation in modern technology, in order to remain competitive and viable into the future.
We have a beautiful downtown campus that is in dire need of upgrades like those mentioned above. Our buildings are generally sound, but the internal layout is no longer practical, nor is it conducive to 21st Century learning.
We want to maintain our the strong sense of pride that is associated with these buildings. We hope to prepare for a strong future in our district, as well as prepare for the possibility of use of our buildings in the event that multi-district consolidation eventually becomes a reality. We are also looking to make more efficient and productive use of the space we have.
Firstly, the boiler systems under the downtown campus are in dire need of replacement. Frankly, this cannot wait. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent over the past 10 years to put bandages on boiler systems that are at the end of their lives. This has diminished our capital operating fund balance, removing opportunity to spend those dollars on education-centered needs.
Under the proposed plan, each building will be retrofitted with its own digital high-efficiency heating system, significantly reducing the annual heating costs, and eliminating the need for constant costly repairs.
Secondly, our High School is a large four-story building, with only one primary restroom area, located on the second floor. That is simply not acceptable, accessible, or adequate. Restrooms are a basic need, and there should be student- and handicap-accessible bathrooms on every floor. What other buildings have you ever been in that have only one bathroom for four floors?
In addition, the proposed outline to place our Junior High students into their own separate and distinct floor in the High School (a floor which would otherwise sit empty!) makes good, common sense. Over 85 percent of middle and high schools in the Upper Peninsula are combined in this fashion.
Under the proposed plan, our middle school will operate as a "school with a school," with its own classrooms, teachers and restrooms. It will be separate and distinct from the high school, yet under the same roof.
This plan will allow us to permanently discontinue use of the old Central Elementary, further reducing our district's annual operating costs. And this proposed "school within a school" will ultimately reduce the interaction between the middle school and high school students to less than current levels.
The plan will also ensure the continued safety of our students, reducing the amount of time spent crossing streets during high-traffic times of day.
The fact is that state budget cuts, along with a reduction in student population (a state-wide issue) have impacted our operating costs, and we cannot continue to continue to operate a large extraneous building for a smaller number of students and teachers.
Finally, much of the classroom furniture and equipment is over 40 years old, too small, falling apart, and no longer meets requirements for 21st Century learning. We do not possess the capital funds to replace antiquated furniture and equipment.
Our budget also does not allow for necessary "safe, warm and dry" upgrades to our buildings, including fire suppression and security systems. It barely covers the constant technology updates that our students need to prepare themselves for the future.
This is why your yes vote is so important to the Iron Mountain School District. If you haven't been in our buildings in a while, I challenge you to come take a good look at our downtown campus at the upcoming Bond Information Meeting on Thursday, July 26, at 6 p.m. in the High School auditorium.
The fact of the matter is that change is coming, whether we like it or not. Voting yes for this bond will allow us to make those changes proactively and in a controlled manner that is best for our kids and our community, rather than reactively being forced by the state to make unsatisfactory changes and cuts in programming due to impending state directives beyond our control. We have a choice, and a vote of yes would be the smart choice.
We must prepare our students for a competitive future in the 21st Century - it's our duty as parents and as a community. Our state-funded budget is directly impacted by the number of students we have attending in our district. Iron Mountain must maintain a strong level of educational competitiveness in order to continue to attract students and families into our community.
Let's build on our tradition, give our district the tools it needs to be the best choice, and prepare our students to work and live in a community they can be proud of. Please, vote yes on Aug. 7 - it's the right thing to do.
For more information and a tax calculator to determine the impact this proposal will have on you, please visit the bond website at www.voteyes4imschools.com.