No blue-light special on education

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2004

I urge Juneau voters to vote "yes" on Proposition 1 for a new high school. Having worked in facilities planning for many years, a new school is the clear choice amongst any alternative presented to date.

The Marie Drake alternative is not a good investment. The costs to renovate existing facilities often run 75 to 80 percent of the cost of new construction so we could sink millions into Marie Drake and at the end of the day still have an old and tired building and overtax what is already a saturated campus. Doing something similar at the old Kmart just because they happen to have an auto bay and kitchen is an even greater stretch and ignores features that are required and designed into even reasonable quality educational facilities ... let's not run a blue-light special when it comes to education.

The Kensington Mine is looking more and more like a reality. This will have an instant and significant increase on our student population. Even with zero growth and student retention rate improvements (both remote and unlikely scenarios in my opinion) our choice is a school operating with 150 percent of capacity or two operating at 80 percent leaving a reasonable and wise planning buffer for future growth. With 70 percent of the new school funded by "free money," we'd still be way ahead even if we built it and, to quote Motel 6 spokesman Tom Bodett, "We left the lights on for 'em." There is no such thing as a perfect crystal ball for future projections or the perfect cost estimate. You make a decision with the best information you have at the time an move on.

We can construct a new school by paying 30 percent of the cost now, or realize our mistake and pay 100 percent of the costs in the future. Or, never realize our mistake and pay many times over in the future to subsidize a future generation that was not provided with the educational environment it needed and, more importantly, deserved.

Brian J. Goettler


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