Athens City School District Petition for Equity and Fiscal Responsibilty in Schools

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We are asking the steering committee and school board to resist the pressure to maintain the status of Athens City School District’s current elementary buildings. Small neighborhood schools build a lot of goodwill but we feel that the desires of a minority of students with unequal advantage to advocate in their community should not overwhelm the needs of all students for modern safe buildings with equitable services.

Facilities assessments indicate that the State of Ohio may recommend that all but one of the seven Athens City School District building to be replaced. The estimated costs of repairs were approximately 50 million dollars. As a point of comparison, Ohio University could build six student athlete academic centers, or the city could build seven swimming pools for the cost of the repairs alone. These buildings require maintenance and operations that are growing at an unsustainable rate and this number does not include improvements to make classrooms more modern or flexible to meet the demands of schools in this century. For example, Denver, Colorado is currently building brand new schools for 1300 students with this exact budget. We are also asking that the committee stands behind the criteria that it set for fiscally responsible and equitable schools retiring the buildings that are necessary to meet this goal.

We know that small schools have benefits for learners but we feel that small communities of students can be created within a new system of buildings and that the term megaschool is being used to invoke fear before a system of buildings has been decided. There is a much larger and more developed body of research that shows students of low socioeconomic status have greater academic outcomes and increased adult incomes when placed with students of higher economic status and there are no adverse effects for the higher income students. There is only the added benefit of greater diversity for everyone.

We are asking for grade level schools with equal services for all of the student body and a greater continuity of all services for students’ social, physical, emotional and health needs. We feel that the possibility of healthier or ‘farm to table food’, more options for physical activity, and increased energy efficiency of the buildings far exceed the increase health or environmental effect of busing a minority of students within the Athens City Limits. There is no indication that creating a level playing field and equal opportunities for children of all economic backgrounds has adverse effects. Instead it increases the academic quality and achievement of the school and community making it more attractive to new families and businesses to come to our area and making Athens a better place to live for all of us.

We ask that you carefully consider the needs of the entire district and that you do not confuse signs and letters from a small group with the advantage of established networks to voice their concerns, with the concerns of all Bulldogs. When one school has already been asked to sacrifice so much for the district by closing , we would like to ask that we now all give up something for the greater good and future possibilities that a new school could create for our students. We also ask that you look at any research presented with a critical eye to make sure that it is up to date and valid. We would like you to make the choice that is best for all of us and make Athens City Schools a place that has integrity. We want to be place that lives up to the school motto of “Every learner, Every Day.” We look forward to campaigning for a levy that supports all Bulldogs equally.

After a decade of studying the subject, I conclude that if Americans really wanted all children to have a real chance to learn, they would…… redraw district and neighborhood assignment lines to ensure a broad mix of students across economic strata (and races or ethnicity) within a school district. Hochschild JL. Social Class in Public Schools. Journal of Social Issues. 2003;59 (4) :821-840.

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