Serious discussion of school issues is needed

“I’m really excited about this coming around, a conversation not so much about buildings as what we can bring to the community,” said Marietta City Schools Board of Education vice president Russ Garrison during Monday’s board meeting.

All of Marietta should be ready to discuss — to genuinely consider — the possibilities in a potential bond levy that could be on the ballot by November. Our kids deserve a community conversation that has their best interests at heart, and stakeholders ready to listen to one another rather than set up camp on one side or the other and never budge.

The youngest school building in the district is almost 60 years old. Though today’s frigid temperatures may have driven it far from our minds, it was not so long ago that the age and deficiencies of those buildings were on full display when students were trying to learn in sweltering classrooms that could not be properly cooled. The call at the time was for all schools to have modern air conditioning systems put in — but there are a variety of reasons that is not possible, and money is only part of the problem.

But forget for a moment about the problems with the old buildings. There are too many of them.

No one living in Marietta could have failed to notice the shrinking population. The current buildings have a capacity 40 percent higher than the number of students attending. There is simply not a need to continue keeping up with the costs of that much space. On the other hand, condensing to one high school, one middle school and ONE elementary school –perhaps all on one campus — makes a lot of sense.

It is possible, in the long run, that a new but much more efficient set of buildings would save the district money; and provide a significantly improved learning environment for our kids. But there are a lot of details to work through between now and then.

Real discussions must take place. All concerns must be heard and considered. While we talk about what is best for our kids, we must act like grown-ups willing to weigh pros and cons — and the needs of the community versus the needs of some individuals.

As that discussion picks up speed, remember the words of Curriculum Director Jona Hall:

“We want whatever we offer (students) to be a chance to have a better life.”