The Tooele County School Board asks us to vote for a $170 million bond to build three new schools. Although I support local schools, and even more I support local school teachers, this bond proposal is an extremely bad idea for a number of reasons.
The most obvious reason is the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only have many parents chosen not to send their children back in person to our public schools this year, but many of them do not plan to send them back in the future even after there is a vaccine.
Moreover, many more parents have recently pulled their children out of being in school in person since the Covid spikes in October, and some of them do not plan on sending their children back in person later.
In addition, while many parents are now involving themselves in a variety of home schooling models, others are utilizing charter schools and other private school options, and many that are staying with the public school option are utilizing solely online teaching, and plan to continue to do so.
All of this means that our in person pupil population has dropped significantly, and we do not need the brick and mortar space that last year we thought we were going to need, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that will change in the years soon to come.
To give the school board the bonding capability of $170 milion at this time is unwise at best. They say they want it for three schools that last year they thought they might have needed in a few years, but with all that has quickly transpired that has changed our school culture beyond what we could have imagined a year ago we clearly will not need those schools for years to come at the earliest.
Instead of worrying about and putting the tax-payers on the hook for a $170 million liability the school board should now be looking at how it can take some pressure off of our overworked and over pressured teachers. Many of our teachers are now having to handle online teaching, as well as online conferencing with parents, while at the same time teaching students in person.
While that may sound easy enough, it adds stress to our teachers, and requires different skill sets and training, and the opinion of many is that the school district has not provided adequate training and developed adequate ongoing support for this new environment our teachers have been thrust into through no fault of their own.
It seems only prudent that the school board stops trying to raise our bond liability for the brick and mortar needs of the past, and focus on how to better equip our teachers for the ‘new normal’ that they have been pressed into for the foreseeable long-term future.
Our teachers are needed for both in-person and online teaching, and they are far more valuable than ‘possibly needed’ future buildings. If our need for buildings changes in the future we can always authorize the school board to secure monies at that time, but at this time it would be wasteful to do so.
The most important thing the school board and district administration can be doing at this time is to find further ways to support our teachers and staff, even if that means raising funds to better compensate them, and supply them with the resources they need now.
Therefore I urge you to vote “no” on the proposed school bond.