I get the tactic

With technological advances and increasing social changes, upgrading our schools is a given. The problem I have with the bond issue has nothing to do with need. It's a matter of communication, appearance and unfortunately, the veracity of the bond committee

The first attempt failed. The superintendent regrouped, reformed task forces and hired a consultant, again. They came back with a bond that costs more money that the original and added a new school . The appearance is either: The powers that be are disregarding the public's vote. Or, powers that be not only are disregarding the vote but have the hubris to almost double the cost of the bond.

I get the tactic of the second bond. Every 8-year-old knows if you want one friend to spend the night ask the parents for two friends to spend the night. You'll likely get a compromise of what you wanted in the first place. But the whole idea of getting the bond rejected then, after spending more time and money, coming back with the same bond has me a bit perplexed. The consultants who were hired really need to find a different line of work. That is one insulting recommendation.

I have not heard the public at large say we need a south side school. What I have heard the public say is, Walton. That is a school parents want to send their children to. We are experiencing disastrous results from the “Build it and they will come “ concept. No, they didn't. Personally, I put little faith in the school rating system Zillow employs, but I can see where a potential house buying family seeing our schools not even rating a 50 percent might look down the road. Fix it and they will come.

I don't blame our superintendent pushing the bond. That's part of her job. I do question her wisdom in, seemingly, disregarding the message Newton taxpayers sent. Pare it down, don't increase it. And don't confuse the voter with a poorly written ballot.

The school board argued over the message a bandanna sends. Time would have been better spent considering what message it sends to the taxpayer to authorize the superintendent to purchase land before the bond vote. The appearance is, that it's a done deal, no matter what the taxpayers want.

— Anthony Cuellar, Newton

 

Please vote yes

Ballots will be mailed to our houses after Aug. 14 and we each have a very important decision to make. Do we invest in our schools, our children and our community by voting yes? Or do we continue to kick the can down the road and leave our high school in a state of disrepair? Our schools have essential updates that are needed to move into the 21st century and it’s time we vote yes. Great schools are an essential foundation for any thriving community and will help our students learn in an updated and safer environment, attract good teachers to our school district, and entice young families to live in Newton. This helps our businesses and local economy. A strong school district helps us all.

The bond is split into two questions. Question #1 focuses on repairs and updates to Newton High School as well as security and safety upgrades for all of our schools, in addition to extra classrooms at Santa Fe and Chisholm. Bond question #1 is absolutely essential for our schools and should be supported by our community. Anyone who has spent time in the high school knows that the temporary walls are falling apart (and sometimes fall down) and that any major classroom renovations have not been done for close to 50 years. Newton kids deserve an updated high school that makes our community proud. These updates will need to be done and cannot be avoided – delaying any of this work will only lead to higher costs in the future.

Question #2 is to build a new grade school south of Highway 50 and will close the grade school in Walton. This question creates much more controversy in our community and there is strong emotion tied to the Walton grade school for former and current students, parents, and residents of Walton. The bond issue gives the Rural Life agricultural program its opportunity to grow and expand in a great new space. I think this new school with an agricultural emphasis could be a shining beacon for USD 373. I am voting yes for Question #2 because I am excited for the learning opportunities and possibilities for the students that are interested in the Rural Life program.

Please vote yes for our kids when you receive your ballot. Voting yes lays the foundation for a thriving community that will create strong Newton pride!

— Jennifer Scott Koontz, Newton

 

In support of the bond

Many concerns regarding the improvement of our schools have been brought up over the years, but that is exactly what happened; it was just brought up. This time, I encourage you to make it a priority to implement a change and not just talk about things. Being a recent NHS student and graduate, I encountered first hand the school's size as it pertains to the footprint and classrooms, as well as electrical inconveniences throughout the building. Making these changes to the building, amongst others, will benefit not only the students, but the faculty and citizens of Newton as well.

Not only are we hoping to see changes made to the High School, but to the Elementary and Middle Schools, too. Implementing better equipped storm shelters and security systems will ultimately make the kids and their families feel as if these are safe places to be. What person wouldn’t want that for their child? Adding another elementary school to the district, south of Highway 50, will limit the distance that students have to travel in order to attend compared to Walton. The addition of this school will be more accommodating for those commuting and those from surrounding area homes. Voting in favor of this bond when ballots are mailed Aug. 14 will be in the best interests of the community and should be seriously evaluated by all. Vote Yes for Kids!

— Jada Berry, Newton

 

In support of the bond

There’s a saying I use as a teacher: The most important things can be counted on one hand - the kids, the kids, the kids, the kids, the kids.

When considering how to vote on the upcoming bond questions, I hope that Newton residents will keep this in mind.

The kids will benefit from renovations to the high school. These aren’t just cosmetic! They are badly needed updates for a building that has served thousands and thousands of students for almost five decades. The maintenance staff has done what they can to keep it running, but now we have the opportunity to modernize it to serve students for decades to come. Will it solve everything? Of course not, no bond can, but it will let students learn in an environment that isn’t falling apart.

The kids will benefit from better safety and security. The world is a scary place, we are reminded of this on a regular basis. Controlled access makes sure that schools know who is coming into their buildings and when. We also live in Tornado Alley. Storm shelters are a must. We continue to learn more about the kind of damage these storms cause and we have the opportunity to build shelters that are the safest for our children.

The kids will benefit from “shiny new buildings.” I’ve heard this again and again that buildings don’t change what’s happening inside. Actually, they can. When NHS students can hear the classrooms next door loud and clear, it’s a distraction and prevents focus. When they can’t complete science experiments that other schools are doing because their labs aren’t safe, that’s affecting learning. The Rural Life Center relies on annexes outside that were never meant to be long-term solutions. These things do have an effect on student learning and we have to recognize that we can do better.

The kids are watching. They’re listening. They see and hear the conversations that are happening and they are relying on this community to put them first. I know that there are those out there that have frustrations with curriculum or with administration and that’s okay! Communities can disagree and can figure out how to address those needs. This bond is not about those things. It’s about keeping our kids safe, positively affecting their learning, and showing the young people in this community that they are worth it! It’s time. Vote yes for kids.

— Megan Tyner, Newton

 

Bond is not necessarily all yes or all no

You are starting to see signs, editorials, endorsements and advertising stating “Vote Yes For Kids.” What they are not making clear is that there are two questions on the bond. I admit that the first bond is needed to fix our schools and bring the facilities up to date. The first bond question accomplishes most of, if not all, of the critical needs that have been identified by the Board and the two citizen groups. The second bond question, which is the building of a new school, in my opinion, is not needed. All that this bond accomplishes is a new school but to fill it, Walton Rural Life Center would be closed. This might make sense if the district was growing but the fact of the matter is that it is not. The district had a demographics study done in 2017 that stated that the district will experience very little if any growth in the next five years. The study also stated that the elementary age student growth, if any, would not be south of Newton, but in Newton proper. I understand that there are at least four empty classrooms in the Newton grade schools which would be room for at least 6 to 7 percent growth in the elementary classes, which exceeds the numbers in the study.

The district itself stated in the 2019-20 budget on page 122-23 under “challenges” the following statement:

“The district is not a growing district. The enrollment is relatively stable but not growing, which impacts the district’s ability to financially meet all of the needs on addition, less new revenue than neighboring districts impacts the district’s ability to provide competitive salaries and benefits.”

In the 2018-19 Budget under the same section, the district had the following statement:

“The district is continuing to experience declining enrollment, which impacts the District’s ability to financially meet all of the needs. In addition, less new revenue than neighboring districts impacts the district’s ability to provide competitive salaries and benefits.”

I just do not understand how it makes sense to spend the additional $24 million to replace seats that we already have in the district which are primarily at Walton. The first bond takes care of the over-crowding issues at the middle school levels by adding four classrooms. I firmly believe that there will come a time when we will need a new school south of Newton, but we need to have the growth to support it. The taxpayers of this district cannot afford a “Build it and they will come” mentality as is created in question #2 of the bond election. In short, as in any situation, the numbers have to support the investment, and in this case it clearly does not. Please join me in voting yews on question #1 and no on question #2.

 

— John M. Esau, Walton

 

A difficult decision

Registered voters who live in USD 373 are being asked to make a significant financial decision concerning the physical facilities of our schools. A financial decision of this magnitude is not made lightly.

Our school board has listened carefully and has made the tough decisions we elected them to make. By allowing us to vote on the questions separately, they have given us the power to decide the best future for public education in our community.

The needs addressed in question one are well documented and become more urgent with each passing school year. Voting yes will provide necessary upgrades and expansion to every school in the district, most critically, at Newton High School.

Walton Rural Life Center has been a source of pride for USD 373 and the Walton community since 2007. While I understand the sadness for those who have had the joy of their children attending Walton Rural Life Center, voting yes on question two will give nearly 50 percent more students the benefit of a rural life program in a larger, new building on the south side of Newton.

Our community has a lot to be proud of. Through controversy, we have built a top notch hospital and medical campus. Through controversy, we have built a beautiful YMCA. I am confident that by voting yews on both question one and two, we will have educational facilities that will provide for our children, attract quality educators, and create community pride. I ask that you join me in voting yes on both questions.

— Christine McKellip, Newton

 

 

Why to vote yes

The needs this bond issue addresses will not go away if the bond is defeated.

The costs of the needs that this bond addresses will not get any cheaper.

We want to increase our tax base to help support our public services and amenities. One of the biggest ways to do this is through having good schools which offer attractive up-to-date learning environments which assist teachers in teaching and students in learning. This is a big issue in attracting people and businesses to come to and stay in our community. It is important in attracting and keeping good teachers.

Newton has always had the reputation of supporting its schools. We are not a wealthy community but we have stretched ourselves to provide good school facilities and learning environments. Our school boards and administrations have believed in maintaining and keeping our facilities and classrooms up to standard and have done so. However, for the past several years, some big issues have developed that the district lacked funding to take care of. The majority of these are at the high school.

Other issues are the need for up-to-standard tornado and storm safety in all our schools. This bond issue would add a storm shelter at the high school which does not have one now, and it would provide increased security at all the schools, an increasingly important issue. Another issue is that more of Newton’s growth is on the south side. Currently students from the south of the highway 50 bypass are bused to Walton. These students coming into the Walton school from Newton make up the large majority of the students in the Walton school, compared to a very small minority of students who live in Walton and the area around it.

Question #1 on the bond issue ballot addresses needs at the high school, middle schools and elementary schools.

Question #2 on the ballot provides for building a new kindergarten through sixth grade school south of the US 50 bypass and would replace the Walton school. It would have the same project-based agricultural theme as the Walton school now has.

Question #2 cannot pass by itself. If Question #1 is not approved, Question #2 alone will not pass. Both questions must pass for the new school to be built.

I intend to vote yes on the questions. I hope you will.

— Sue Ice, Newton