City schools#039; project needs more debate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2005

When it comes to the future of Ironton High School, the line has been drawn in the sand with people clamoring to line up on both sides.

Public sentiment will be crucial since the voters will be asked in November to fund the local portion rebuilding or restoration of the project.

Supporters of the board-approved plan emphasize that building a new high school

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- except for possibly the entryway and the auditorium - will be the cheapest option and will provide the best location for the children of tomorrow.

The other side, equally as passionate, contend the aged building holds too many memories and too much historical significance for any of it to just be torn down and cast aside.

Where does the answer lie? We are not yet sure, and that seems to be the problem for many other people as well. The issue has not been publicly debated enough to allow everyone to feel as if they have had input, so much confusion remains.

We urge the school board to put the brakes on the plan until all sides have had the chance to publicly express their views and work through their differences.

The district will not lose the funding from the the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission as long as action is taken within the next year. Though delaying the vote and calling a special election would cost at least $10,000, the district should do so if it would develop more community support.

Putting the issue on a ballot by itself may even increase its chances of passage since voters are going to be asked to vote on several other tax levies in November.

Paying $10,000 may seem like a lot of money, but in terms of the $41.7 million project, it is little more than a drop in the bucket to ensure the entire community supports the plans.

Some polls were sent out but

were only completed by a few hundred people. And, yes, the steering committee was comprised of about 30 people from across the community. However, the public forum was canceled and community involvement was not promoted enough.

Perhaps most concerning, in efforts to meet the state's June 1 deadline for choosing a plan, the school board approved the committee's recommendation to build new building by meeting on a Sunday, just hours before graduation.

It may have been legal to discuss at a special session like this but was certainly not the best avenue for soliciting public input or fostering public support.

We support the school district and support the community's desire for updated facilities. But before we can support plans to destroy the old high school, we urge the district to provide platforms for discussion to make sure the majority want to go this route.

Some may say that time is running out, but the venerable building has stood for 82 years, it will last another few months. It is vital to the future that we make the right decision, not just the quick one.