Letter | Student weighs in on School Bond vote
April 8, 2012 · Updated 11:27 AM
To My Fellow Mercer Island Residents,
My name is Kyle and I am a junior at Mercer Island High school. I am inclined to write this letter because I've become very interested in the $196M school bond, and from where I stand I have valuable insight from a high school student's perspective. As far as I know, there has not been a single student's opinion heard on whether the bond is the right thing for Mercer Island or not. When I realized that, I thought, how illogical is it that the people making decision haven't even considered getting the student body's opinion? Since the students are the most important, right? All right, so there are a few points I would like to make about the bond.
First, according to the School Board, the schools have 10-15 more years left in them before they need to be torn down and reconstructed. That being said, the entire bond is based off trying to solve ONE problem: Overcrowding. Several more efficient and practical solutions are dismissed before declaration that the only way we can fix the problem is to demolish and rebuild four of the five schools on the island. The problem of overcrowding can be solved for a fraction of the price of the bond through adding portables (until the buildings actually need to be replaced), or even adding one elementary school somewhere else on the island. Both of these options are completely viable, and have been dismissed without proper justification. In addition, in case you didn't know already, there used to be 5 elementary schools and 2 middle schools on the island. Why can't we just add another school? Why can't we add portables either? I've been a student in MISD for 11 years now, and I have never once heard a student complain about not learning as well in a portable classroom.
Secondly, there is a major flaw in the argument that we need to follow other school districts like Bellevue and Issaquah. For one, those cities have major shopping centers and consumer attractions that allow their school districts to receive huge amounts of money apart from purely homeowners' taxes. Also, if quality of education is determined by how new the facilities are, then I guess I've missed something. Shouldn't schools be judged on how well students perform and how much they learn in class? In my opinion it seems ridiculous to claim that to improve the learning in our schools we MUST demolish and rebuild 4 schools, spend $196M of taxpayers money, and give the MISD school board the power to change what the money is going to be spent on at any point within the 25 year period.
Third, don't consider this school bond an investment for your home value. That's a big leap. If you want to increase the value of your property then invest directly into home. Our schools achieve such high marks because parents on Mercer Island expertly guide and support their children, and teachers are excellent. Newcomers to the island are drawn to our district because of HOW SCHOOLS ACHIEVE, not how they look. If you could pick a gilded new school, or the one that achieves highly regardless of how new the facilities are, then is there even a decision to make?
I propose another addition to the ballot. Let's use our intelligence, put our heads together, and make reform to the actual LEARNING that goes on in our school district. With respect to the bond, please, for the sake of our students vote NO. The board plans on rebuilding four schools without using a swing school (temporary school) in 4-7 years. Meaning, elementary and middle school students will be even more cramped into smaller portions of the school while other parts are getting torn down and rebuilt. It's not realistic, that’s why the board included the clause stating they can alter the allocation of funds without a unanimous vote. Can you imagine the learning environment of a school experiencing total reconstruction? It will be overcrowding and insanity for an entire year. Not to mention the danger of sending K-5th graders out on the playground with heavy machinery and hard-hat zones separated from the playground by a chain link fence.
Islanders, the point is, we are all in this together. We have amazing students, parents, PTA, School Board, staff, and faculty here in the MISD. I wrote this letter for the purpose of pushing a high school student's opinion out there, and taking responsibility for my education and for the education of those around me. Let’s improve the education that goes on in the classroom, because teachers and students do the learning, not the facilities around us. Let's reform education and be a leader for other communities to follow. We are very blessed to have the resources and capabilities to spark real change, now it's our chance to take advantage of that.
Kyle Huber, Mercer Island High School Junior