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Saying 'yes' to the future

The current give and take concerning a proposed school bond to construct new buildings at a site in South Pagosa has brought all the familiar characters and points of view out of the woodwork.

If the issue passes in November, there will be buildings constructed. The issue, if passed, would provide District 50 Jt. with up to $59 million, with a repayment cost of up to $98,115,000, to construct, equip and furnish a new facility to house kindergarten through eighth grade students.

Solid points have been made in support of the proposal. Solid points have been made in opposition to the proposal. Proponents argue that current buildings are in poor shape and improved environments are needed. Many opponents argue the project is not the right one, and that now is not the time to accrue a huge debt.

If the issue does not pass, however, it is but the start of a discussion to which most of the vocal parties now chiming in on the issue should contribute.

We say “most” because those friends and neighbors who vow not to pay any additional tax for any reason, at any time, need to get out of the way, go home and watch TV. Certainly, they have the right to vote “no” whenever possible, but they shouldn’t clutter the atmosphere when it comes time to engage in constructive dialogue. “No,” in cases such as this, contributes nothing, illuminates no real possibilities.

Real possibilities is what this issue, as well as others dealing with infrastructure, needs.

The core question here is not ultimately whether we pass an initiative this fall and construct new buildings near the high school. The key question is — recognizing that something must be done to remedy the situation — what, and when? Who will pay for it, and how much will they pay given a certain delay?

Something must be done to three of the district’s buildings, or those buildings must be replaced. To deny that a community has an obligation to provide better than average environments for its children is to opt out of that community. This must be done.

But, is there a cheaper solution than a new campus, a solution that will provide those better-than-average spaces? Talk to architects without a vested interest in new construction and the answer you will often hear is “yes.” Some will say there are things that can be done to existing structures to bring them up to an acceptable standard, at much less expense than construction of new buildings. Those architects will likely tell you that such projects can be phased and scheduled in order to allow the regular school cycle to proceed unimpeded by work.

Whether something like this is the answer, or new buildings must be built, we repeat — something must be done. Unless we are among that small group of curmudgeons who wish to see public education destroyed in America, we must recognize our duty to generations to come, just as our predecessors recognized their duty to us in their time.

And we must remember: even a remodel will cost a lot of money. We are going to have to pay.

The longer we wait, the more will need to be done, and the cost will increase. Of that, we can be sure.

The discussion, prior to the November vote and after, should focus on how we can tend to the best interests of our children, and the children yet to be born here in Pagosa Country. “No” will not do the trick. “Yes” must ultimately guide us in a way that gets maximum results for the money spent.

Karl Isberg

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