My Turn: New Valley high school supports all of Juneau

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2003

I was concerned by teacher Clay Good's commentary last week because it appeared to me Mr. Good felt the vote to build a Mendenhall Valley high school was somehow a vote against him and other teachers at Juneau-Douglas High School. As a citizen in support of a Valley high school, I want to assure Mr. Good, and other JDHS teachers, that citizen support of the high school in no way reduces community support for Juneau's teachers. The city Assembly is not weighing its support of teacher salaries and benefits at this time. Assembly members are being asked to make a decision about the proposed plans for the Valley high school (submitted by our Juneau School Board) or to disagree with those plans and supplant that project with a scaled down version of the high school developed by city engineering and planning staff. I see no relationship between the construction of the Valley high school and support of Juneau's teachers.

I have attended several Assembly meetings over the past two months to listen and learn about issues around the construction of the Valley high school, and to hear Assembly members' concerns. I gave public testimony at the Jan. 8 meeting in support of the School Board's plans because I believe the funding to build a new high school has everything to do with supporting the academic, physical and social development of our high school students. My 17-year-old daughter attends JDHS as a junior. However, each year she has been at JDHS, overcrowding and insufficient resources have impacted her learning environment and development. This year is the worst. The Assembly's decision last year to approve a remodel of JDHS before the construction of a new high school has led me to be more involved and invested in the construction of a second high school. My student has been significantly impacted by the reconstruction and I try to imagine how I would enjoy coming to work each day if my work environment was noisy, freezing cold, impossible to move around due to overcrowding, and I had no right to complain or refuse to show up. A pleasing, safe, and healthy environment at work and at school is vital to people's attitudes, production, learning opportunities, social interactions and overall health. After the JDHS remodel is complete, the high school will look nicer, but it will still have too many students for adequate classroom sizes and learning opportunities.

A new Valley high school has many benefits. Our students and teachers will have space that supports education and instruction, and if we build the larger school, residents will actually pay less property taxes than originally calculated in 1999. At this time our city has an incredible opportunity to receive 60 percent state reimbursement for both the reconstruction of JDHS, and the construction of a Valley high school. This is a 10 percentage point increase in reimbursement than was estimated when our community came together to hash out issues, agree to disagree, and arrive at a school plan that supported educational and community interests. Hours of input and planning from the public, professionals, teachers, parents, students and a multitude of other community groups that use and benefit from our public school buildings resulted in a new community school.

Juneau's public schools support all people of Juneau. The buildings serve each and every one of us in hundreds of important ways all year long - for years. Juneau voters have had a vision to raise the bar for our schools, for the students and teachers, and for opportunities and activities that make our community diverse, active, and joyful.

I would like the Assembly to approve the School Board's plan for the Valley high school and allow a special election to take place this spring that gives Juneau voters the opportunity to decide if the larger school is to be constructed. After all the work and heart our community members and professionals have expended on the Valley high school over the past five years, it seems appropriate the voters be allowed to use the public process for a final decision and direction. The School Board has responded to the Assembly's concerns to my satisfaction, and further delays and analyses will only jeopardize our city's chance to regain project dollars and my (your) opportunity to pay less in property taxes. I would like the opportunity to give my children the best education and the school facility to support it.

• Stacy Goade of Juneau is a parent of high school- and middle school-aged children.

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