By Daniel Downs
The Xenia Community Schools Under One Roof (UOR) plan is an exciting new innovative concept. A campus combining existing community organizations like the YMCA, Senior Citizens Center, hospital, Athletes in Actions, and others sharing costs and resources is popular and unproven. For example, a hospital serves people from outside the community as well as local residents. Connected facilities increase the potential for our youth to be targets of unsuspected criminals. A previous writer raised concerns about post-9-11 requirements for enhanced security and UOR increases that need even more. The UOR model like the Lake Local School High School in Union Ohio is too new to know what problems may or may not occur with great confidence. It is also not likely those that already have occurred will be advertised.
Another issue that needs to be raised is why should high school students alone benefit from the UOR plan? Why not junior high and elementary students? I understand why only senior high students would benefit from a hospital-based medical training facility. An on-campus hospital would provide beneficial services to both athletes and the elderly. That’s all good, but shouldn’t other Xenia students also benefit from the YMCA, Athletes in Action, medical services, potential interaction the elderly, and from similar affiliations?
I believe neighborhood schools with small class sizes and real parental involvement are the best kind. In California, Colorado, New York, Texas, and other states tried supersized schools and found them very problematic. Reports shows they have returned to small neighborhood or specialty schools because they are more effective and less problematic learning environments. That’s why Xenia’s plan to supersize elementary schools is a bad idea. An alternative to both supersized and neighborhood elementary schools is building small neighborhood sized elementary schools and middle schools on planned UOR campus. Why not revise the UOR plan to include all schools so that all Xenia children benefit? Yes, it would increase the current plan costs considerably. It would even increase the cost of busing, but it might be worth it.
What does not make sense is replacing one of the newest buildings in the school district. At least three elementary schools, all of them older than Warner Jr. High, actually should be rebuilt. If Xenia is going to invest in the UOR plan, why not go all out and either rebuild all schools on the new site, or rebuild other schools in their neighborhoods with an Olympian size swimming pool, health service facilities, upgraded science labs, and high tech communication and computerized infrastructure. Why let politics and unjust government funding strategies (government rip off of tobacco companies) rule Xenia’s future? Why not spend the extra dollars to build the best possible educational facilities meeting future needs today?
Well, here is a brief answer. About 62% of Xenia households cannot afford more taxes and the rising cost-of-living. The annual income of 32% of Xenia families and their children is at or below the poverty line. Another 30% have incomes at or below $40,000. Families with that level of income are also eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We should not forget that about 11% of Xenia householders are senior citizens. They certainly cannot afford more taxes along with rising cost of gas, food, heating, water, and most everything else. That leaves only 38% or nearly 4,100 households to pay for most of the over 50 million dollar Under One Roof bill. That is if the bond issue passes.
Besides the money issue, education is not about swimming, sports (can I hear a boo?), sex, or computers. It is about learning to read, write, do math and science, understand the lessons of literature and history, prepare for good citizenship and a profitable career. When it comes to school facilities, warm, cool, dry, safe school buildings are of utmost importance not the latest and greatest technologies and services, big high-tech labs, pool facilities, or sports stadiums. However, the amenities would be pretty nice and maybe even beneficial.
So what can Xenia residents do? First, remember the UOR bond issue is our school officials’ latest plan to get Ohio School Facility Commission money to build new schools. If memory serves correctly, they’ve been trying to get a bond issue passed for 10 years or more. Second, low income and elderly citizens must also vote this November making sure their voice is heard concerning the UOR/school rebuilding plan. If Xenia citizens (especially, the 38% who will pay the most) decide to rebuild better schools now, why not go the extra mile and make sure the best plan for the best schools are built and paid for now. The often-chanted mantra is still true: ‘Costs will only go up’ and the nearly $50 million in tobacco industry ‘blood money’ will no longer be available.
Originally published on February 27 in the Xenia Daily Gazette