Archived Story

Outdoor facility: Want or need? [UPDATED]

Published 5:46am Monday, February 25, 2013 Updated 7:48am Monday, February 25, 2013

The Rolling Stones once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

When it comes to the Fergus Falls School District’s upcoming outdoor facilities referendum, there seems to be a debate about want and need.

School Board members are asking district residents to spend $5.475 million to update the football stadium and expand the track to eight lanes, create irrigated green space that will contain a variety of practice fields, add parking spaces for the new outdoor facilities, and create an environmental science area.

I’m sure there are many in Fergus Falls who would look at this list and say, “Why do students need such things to get an education?”

To those who think that, you are correct. They don’t.

Arguments that the improvements are necessary to ensure students are safe doesn’t necessarily hold water, either. The district could address safety concerns with its existing maintenance budget.

But to residents considering voting no based on those terms, you’re not thinking about it the right way.

My recent attendance at a school board meeting crystallized the idea that the school district is a business, and it is scratching and clawing to get students to attend public school in Fergus Falls and go not elsewhere.

Open enrollment, the increase of private school options, and the home-schooling trend have meant that, if you have children and live in the Fergus Falls School District, it is anything but automatic that your children would attend public school.

Let’s also remember that Fergus Falls is not necessarily a place where people automatically think they want to move to. Don’t get me wrong. I love living here. But compared to, say, the Twin Cities, Chicago, or Miami Beach, for that matter, Fergus Falls isn’t exactly a place a young professional would “target” to live in. As someone who has hired many employees over the years, I spend as much time selling prospective employees – which includes driving them around Fergus Falls to see the sights – as I do finding out if they can do the job.

Every child who attends a neighboring school, a private school, gets home schooled, or whose parents pull up stakes and moves to a different community, costs the district about $5,000 a year in state revenue. Over 13 years, that’s $65,000 – more than enough to cover a teacher’s salary and benefits. For parents who move away, the economic cost to the community is far greater.

Fergus Falls School Board members have come to realize this. It is the reason that on Monday, they will likely waive the monthly fee for children to attend all-day kindergarten. If waiving the fee means even a few parents decide to send their children to Fergus Falls public schools rather than elsewhere, it will be worth the revenue the district will forego.

Those running a business have to make updates to facilities to compete for customers. It’s why all three of the local new car dealers have recently expanded and remodeled their showrooms and repair shops. It’s why Walmart expanded to a superstore. It’s why many churches have completed additions and renovations. The owners of those businesses and institutions realize that, if they don’t, customers ultimately will buy their cars, purchase their toiletries, or attend church elsewhere.

In essence, we as property owners are stakeholders in the business known as the Fergus Falls School District. And right now, our business needs an investment in order to retain and recruit students.

It’s a relatively small investment. Property taxes will still decrease if the referendum is passed. If adding an impressive array of outdoor facilities to an essentially new secondary school and community arena keeps even a few students in public school that would have gone elsewhere otherwise, it’s an investment worth making.

For that reason, the outdoor facilities are something we need.

 

Progress edition to be released Thursday

Be sure to check out our Progress edition on Thursday. Simply put, it’s our best edition of the year. This year’s edition includes “snapshots” on the main drivers of the local economy – agriculture, manufacturing, government, health care, and education to name a few. It also includes local heroes – people who do great work in our communities and usually get little recognition for it. It also includes some fun things as well.

By the way, be sure to thank your carrier on Thursday, because it’s also one of the most difficult days for them as well.

 

Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at joel.myhre@fergusfallsjournal.com

  • nanajean

    I have to disagree with Joel’s assessment of the want and need and equating this to a business. Have you been to Underwood and Rothsay? They have very plain but adequate fields that their teams use all the time. And as someone who had a child in both Fergus Falls and Underwood, I can tell you why they are sending their children to other schools. I found that the teachers were not invested in the students here in Fergus Falls. Would not communicate with the parents or guardian’s, Even with some of the court ordered things that I am aware of. So our child went to Underwood, where the schools priority was to educate the child. They also did not have kids standing in parking lots smoking and pushing drugs. I have been asked many times why Underwood, and this city would not appreciate my answers, just as the Fergus Falls Schools did not like my answers. You all are forgetting that the goal of schools is to first Educate, the games, and other activities are for after school, and not a resource for the communuity.

  • nanajean

    I have to disagree with Joel’s assessment of the want and need and equating this to a business. Have you been to Underwood and Rothsay? They have very plain but adequate fields that their teams use all the time. And as someone who had a child in both Fergus Falls and Underwood, I can tell you why they are sending their children to other schools. I found that the teachers were not invested in the students here in Fergus Falls. Would not communicate with the parents or guardian’s, Even with some of the court ordered things that I am aware of. So our child went to Underwood, where the schools priority was to educate the child. They also did not have kids standing in parking lots smoking and pushing drugs. I have been asked many times why Underwood, and this city would not appreciate my answers, just as the Fergus Falls Schools did not like my answers. You all are forgetting that the goal of schools is to first Educate, the games, and other activities are for after school, and not a resource for the community.

  • nanajean

    Joel you are so wrong on so many levels. First off I am a parent of a child who I did have in Fergus Falls schools. Her needs were ignored, and she floated through the year she was in your schools. She transferred to Underwood, which doesn’t have fancy fields, and Ice Rinks, but she did receive and education. Teachers in Fergus basically stated they had more important things to do then to “babysit” a troubled child. In Underwood they welcomed her and made her comfortable in the surroundings, and encouraged to participate in a number of activities, all of which were after school. Her Grades went up, she surpassed anything that she thought she could have done before.
    I have had lots of people ask why I took her from your schools and I honestly told them because to succeed she needed to be educated, and she wasn’t getting it here.

  • BillSchulz

    Ultimately, it is up to the voters to decide whether they believe this is a necessary and prudent use of their tax payments. It is unfortunate though that all the press outlets in town, this paper, the radio stations, are carrying the water for this bond measure, and there seems little inclination on their part to give space or time to thoughtful people who doubt the need or sense of spending so much to support a school system which is losing student count every year.

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