3B

Buildings do matter

Many solid reasons exist to support ballot issue 3B. The high school is inadequate for its mission, not because it was poorly planned and built in the 1960s and not because it’s been poorly maintained — tasks accomplished as well as possible with the funds and knowledge at hand — but because it’s 45 years old and the world has changed in ways that could not have been predicted from that distance.

The Building Excellent Schools Today grant will pay for more than half the project, providing an exceptional return on a local investment that will have to be made very soon anyway. Interest rates and building costs are low. Passing up such an opportunity would be unwise, to say the least.

An additional incentive exists: A new high school will make a difference in the education of Re-1’s students.

The essential ingredients of education are dedicated teachers, motivated students and supportive parents. In urging voters to approve bond funding for a new high school, no one has claimed otherwise. Bond opponents who argue that buildings don’t educate students have set up that straw man just so they can knock it down.

But facilities matter. They can aid in education or make it more difficult. The need for safety features should be inarguable, particularly to individuals who believe that the worst behavioral problems in the 1960s were chewing gum in class and smoking in the restroom. Basic amenities like adequate space, good lighting and acoustics, and effective temperature control all can help teachers teach and students learn. Up-to-date technology allows students to work in real-world conditions, and not providing it puts them at a tremendous disadvantage. While the challenges of inadequate equipment may build character — a trait most adults would agree is best instilled at home — they don’t further the school’s goal of introducing concrete skills that students will need for future success.

At the turn of the millennium, the Cortez Journal occupied a downtown building that had undergone many renovations. The photocopier couldn’t be turned on until the coffeemaker was shut off. Successive generations of computers had brought many rows of electrical conduit, until finally an electrician said, “Enough. Next time you need to tear it all out and start from scratch.”

The old building couldn’t accommodate changes to the newspaper industry, so a new one was built. Equipment was in spaces designed for it, nearly every employee could see out a window, all of the outlets and light switches worked. Productivity increased measurably, and morale improved. Readers and advertisers were better served. Better working conditions and better equipment absolutely do show results in the end product.

That experience is not unique to the Journal. Buildings do make a difference. Ask at Empire Electric, at the area banks that have moved into beautiful new buildings, at the recently remodeled City Market, or at Southwest Colorado Community College, where Pueblo Community College has invested in renovations.

Those investments are not undertaken for cosmetic purposes; such projects happen because planners have analyzed the costs and the benefits and decided to move forward.

Few community investments are more significant than schools. The need has been demonstrated and the price is right. Vote “yes” on 3B.