High school is wise investment

Later in the same conversation, he said, with pride, that his children went to one of the best public schools in Maryland. To my knowledge, residents in Maryland pay taxes to support the schools even if they do not have children in the system or they are retired. I bit my tongue, but have spent the whole day wondering how a person could be so hypocritical. I wanted to ask why his children deserved a well-funded education at the taxpayers’ expense but mine do not. I later learned that this same person used to work for the government (in a tax-funded position), retired early (retirement funded by tax payer money) and is married to a person who collects disability (you guessed it, funded by taxpayers).

It continues to amaze me how people collecting social security, enrolled in Medicare, who served in the military or as a paid public servant (such as a police officer or postal worker) or raised children who went to public schools seem to forget the benefits they have received from our taxes, while lobbying against taxes and level funding for our schools. And let us not forget how many Fluvanna County residents are employed by the schools. Their salaries go to support local businesses as well as everyone else’s.

This same person expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision to build the new high school. When I asked if he had seen the high school, he said no. I truly believe that every taxpayer in this county should not only visit the new high school, but also take the time to visit the existing schools to truly understand the decision. The “old” high school leverages buckets in the rafters to catch rain due to the leaky roof. Human waste from Central Elementary has to be pumped and hauled away because it cannot handle the amount of sewage. During my daughter’s third grade year at Central, she was one of over 1,400 students at the school. The average elementary school in this country has about 500 students.

There is no debating the fact that the high school cost the taxpayers of this county a lot of money. The simple truth is that it is built, and we need to focus on all that we, as a community, are getting. It was not only built for the students entering in August, but those who will enter for years to come. It is energy efficient with lighting and heating/air conditioning that automatically adjusts when rooms are vacant, resulting in lower cost. It is engineered to withstand hurricane-strength winds with angled outer walls. All of the beams have been sprayed with fire proofing foam. Unlike the old high school, it has dedicated fire hydrants and fire sprinklers. The elevator in the school is large enough to not only accommodate the students with disabilities comfortably, but, unlike the “old” high school, it can fit rescue squad backboards.

Once school is in session, all doors will lock from the inside so that anyone — student, parent or somebody with no business being at a school — will have to enter from the main entrance and go through the office to gain access. There are also security cameras throughout. The new high school has features, including larger bleachers, an actual auditorium (which the “old” high school lacks) and bathrooms large enough for crowds that make it ideal for community events. And these are just the features I know of. There are many more! It was a wise investment. Students, staff, parents and taxpayers alike are worthy of such an investment.

Kerry Murphy-Hammond of Columbia is a member of Focus on Fluvanna’s Future.

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