My Turn: Vote no in school election to handle future growth

Posted: Monday, April 19, 2004

I am writing to urge you to vote no on May 25, regarding the high school proposition. A "no" vote ensures a new high school.

I have seen three students through Juneau-Douglas High School. We had many great experiences, teachers, and extracurricular activities. Our children were active and involved, and as parents, so were we. As involved parents, we experienced not only the positive side of JDHS, but the negative side as well. We experienced the crowded halls, crowded commons area, inadequate classrooms on the Marie Drake side, impractical passing times transitioning between MD and JDHS, parking issues, unavailable outdoor activities (fields, track, basketball courts), and lack of space to socialize outside the building. More important than these, as a member of the site council and active on the parent group, I saw the numbers on our dropout rate, heard from students and parents about kids falling through the system, felt the heartache of kids not making the team, saw the alternative choice programs fill to capacity and kids "stuck" in a system not particularly suited for them.

Juneau continues to grow. Some years it's stable, some years it may lose a few, but over the long range, Juneau grows. We need to plan for this growth for the long-term. We need vision and foresight. Quality schools affect our ability to attract new families and retain families; smaller schools are attractive to families and the business community. With two small schools we will be able to offer a better sense of community, better student support, and double participation in activities. Research shows that academic achievement in small schools equals or exceeds large schools. Drop out rates and discipline problems are reduced, as well as substance abuse, violence and racial problems.

At this years count date (the official enrollment figure) we were 500 plus over capacity. The count date figure is an excellent baseline that can be compared each year, and is the number used when receiving state funding. Advocates for and against continuously argue over this number. However, give or take on either side, JDHS is way overcrowded. If it were not for an open campus, the use of Marie Drake, zero hour, college connection, co-op and service learning (off campus programs) we would be double shifting now. The facility is inadequate for those it houses, students are suffering and many teachers are frustrated.

A second high school will allow our community two smaller schools, which, due to the smaller school status, will generate approximately 822,000 additional dollars annually for the same number of students from the state Department of Education. If we begin construction prior to Dec. 31, 2004, we can secure a 60 percent state construction reimbursement previously approved by a statewide bond vote for schools. If the initiative passes, we will not be eligible for this bond and the citizens of Juneau will have to pay 100 percent of the cost of a new school.

Juneau can't afford to not build now. Not only to secure state bond fund reimbursement but to secure a safer and healthier school environment, more student choices and most of all, a better education for our students. Please Vote no May 25 so we can have two quality schools in Juneau with double the quality of education.

There is an excellent web site available at www.juneaubuilditnow.org. This Web site is full of accurate information and facts. Please refer to it if you have any questions. There are also contact numbers and e-mails available if you have additional questions or need further clarification.

• Margie Ridgeway is a parent of three children who were born and raised in Alaska, attended Juneau schools, and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School.



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