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Cast wider net to hear what voters want on school issues

Marietta City Schools had its first meeting this week of a new facilities group and one of the topics discussed was tweaking the school construction plan before it goes before voters again, namely finding out what district residents want and would be willing to approve.

These meetings are important and a good first step, but let’s not stop at meetings. This one had a group of 25 people attending. The bigger crowds drawn for recent meetings about school consolidation drew 100 or more people at times, better but still a small fraction of the district. In that instance, the district started an email account where the public could share their preferences. It seemed to work well to engage the community.

We think that would be a good idea in this instance as well. If the problems voters had with the school construction plan last November had to do not with the cost but with the location, the one-campus idea or some other facet of the project that could be changed, those creating the plan should hear about it. And let’s face it–most people are just not going to turn out for meetings, as important as they are.

“My sense is, if we’re not hearing from 600 or 1,000 people willing to say, ‘This is what I think,’ and they’re saying that to other people, then we’re not reflecting the community,” said superintendent Will Hampton at Monday’s meeting.

We agree, and we think by extending a digital component to this process, a reflection of the community could be achieved.

We’ve stressed before how important it is to allow people to have discussions and ask questions face to face with the board and administration and that hasn’t changed. But that doesn’t mean other avenues aren’t also valuable.

If this bond issue for new schools is going to pass in Marietta, the best time would be the next time on the ballot, before the district spends money and reorganizes in the 2021-22 school year, closing two elementaries and reconfiguring the remaining buildings. The best way to do that is to find out what the public–beyond the core group that attends meetings–will vote for. That must be the focus of the next campaign.

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