Support our kids

By Phyllis Norris

As a native, business person and a representative of the citizens of Grand Junction I’ve seen this community come together to support a need. Today our kids need our support to provide a safe learning environment and an education with the opportunity for a bright future.

My children, grandchildren and I all attended schools in District 51. The schools we attended are still here today and I’m sorry to say are in a desperate need of repairs, better security and in one case, a complete replacement.

Because of the poor economy we have experienced since 2008, the school board has reduced $30 million from the budget. These cuts were taken primarily outside the schoolroom leaving infrastructure in disrepair and today we are faced with the results. In November citizens will be ask to approve a $118.5 million bond to take care of the basic priority needs.

Every school is in need of repairs and maintenance, $55 million of the bond will take care of the basic problems that exist today. Security needs today are very different than they were even 10 years ago — $2.5 million would put in place safe entrances and security cameras. Today our students have one computer for every 3.2 students. $11 million is needed to add classroom computers to provide one computer for every two students.

Orchard Mesa Middle School needed replaced 15 years ago! I often hear people comment; “I don’t live on Orchard Mesa so this doesn’t affect my kids.” In the late 1960s when there was a fire at the school, students were sent to other schools for the year it took to repair the damages. Students at the affected schools only went half days. Even though this was a solution for the problem at the time, they did not receive the education they deserved. We can’t afford to lose one school in our district!

The bond approval would also spend $10 million to add two new gyms. Today students are being transported to other schools to use their facilities. These gyms don’t just sit empty in the summer, they are often used for summer programs through the school district and municipalities.

The $118.5 bond will provide all the above items at a cost of about $5 a month for the average home owner. Even though my kids are no longer in the schools, I feel responsible for providing a safe environment for the kids in this district.

The mill levy override will provide classroom support that is needed to help our kids be competitive for future jobs. I hear a lot about how the district should cut expenses and be more efficient with the dollars they have. Out of 178 school districts, District 51 ranked fourth in Colorado in efficiencies. To me, this indicates they are doing a good job with the dollars they have.

I also hear many people talk about the short school year. Our kids go 162 days while the Colorado average is 180 days. The mill levy would provide five additional school days, which I don’t believe this is enough, however, it is a start! The cost for the additional five days is $3.2 million per year.

There are not enough text books. I was shocked to learn our kids are asked to use their cell phones to take pictures of the pages in text books so they could do their homework! Not only that, they are very outdated, many of the books being used today were printed in the 1990s! Two million dollars will be spent annually for curriculum materials.

The mill levy will also annually provide $300,000 for technology and an additional $1 million for maintenance. If we don’t keep up with the improvements the bond provides we will be in the same situation 10 years from now.

Even though my kids are no longer in schools, I feel responsible for providing a safe, positive learning environment for all the kids in this district. The $3.5 million mill levy cost for the average home owner is an increase of about $5 a month. I hope you will join me and many other citizens by voting yes on 3A and 3B to provide a competitive education in a safe environment for our kids in District 51. Our kids deserve and need our support.

To learn more, visit citizensforsd51.com

Phyllis Norris is a Grand Junction City Council member and former mayor. The opinions in this column are hers and do not represent the views of the City Council nor any of the boards on which she participates.


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