"Sharing the gym during school hours would be much too distracting for the kids and much too loud for those from the rec center."
Perfect! It made sense to me, besides my mind as always was on other things. As the person behind the desk excitedly told me about the new facility that day, I remember "state of the art" was a statement used several times and I was thinking....."Why?" Yeah, it shows you that my mind wasn't really into spending that kind of money in this manner. I saw no real need or purpose to have this new gym, especially when a brand new outdoor track was also in the works. Granted, after attending last nights BOE meeting and listening to people talk and seeing the gym for myself, I realized that I really wasn't thinking about the seniors or anyone for that matter with bad joints or those who had trouble when conditions were too warm or too cold outside. The new track is amazing and I am sure it is going to be the difference between someone sitting on the couch and actually getting up and walking comfortably. Admittedly, I did not vote for the gym and obviously I was in the minority. We now have a shared facility beautiful though it maybe, that divides both the space between the grade school and the rec center and also now a good portion of our community. No track or building.....no matter how wonderful or cushy it is, is worth that.
Apparently it never pays to leave a party or in this case, meeting too early. In the aftermath of last nights meeting and in my hurry to get home to my kids, I seemed to have missed the off camera feelings of some of those in attendance. Hearing this, I have to admit killed my optimism that this town could quickly and easily come to a compromise. The dreaded "us against them" mentality seemed to be invoked as the first speaker took the mic and the divide widened from there until long after the meeting was adjourned. It didn't help that some seniors took the moments following the meeting to speak out loudly about their disdain even having to be put through this ordeal. To them this was much ado about nothing and a direct slam against both their good standing and their good intentions in this town. Parents felt shut down, disrespected and deflated after the 90 minute meeting. Apparently, at least where the town folk are concerned, the issue is at an impasse and the likelihood of a willing compromise coming from both sides at once is looking pretty iffy.
Yes, there are those like myself that have concerns for our kids, but we also have concerns for our community too. We are making the effort to come together to discuss this, but once we are together.....the heels are dug in and both sides seem to end up feeling offended, disrespected and down right mad. These kids that we are trying to protect are watching their parents, grandparents and neighbors talk bad about each other, call each other names and ultimately turn on each other. How is this helping our kids again?
I thought a lot about this last night and some things occurred to me. I know that there are other towns throughout the country thinking of building shared facilities such as ours, but are there facilities like ours already out there? Surely both the city and the district looked into some prototypes before they came together on this matter and if an old article from the city newspaper, as well as the information I and others received back before the bond issue vote are any indication, original plans were that this facility would in fact be shared, but not during school hours. The decision to have this open to both the school and the rec center during school I firmly believe came later on after the vote and when planning and construction were under way. However, rather than keep head butting over the "what ifs" and the valid concerns of parents, I wondered who currently had actually done any research on other towns like ours, who might also be sharing facilities? Lucky for me, I had some ER downtime this morning so I decided to do a little research. Now I say a little because I was on my phone, I hate to Google on my phone and my searches weren't bringing up much. Once home I did a little more research and this is what I found:
1)Apparently there aren't a lot of shared gym facilities like what we have. Especially there aren't a lot of new construction facilities. However, this type of thing appears to be the new wave of the future and because of costs and space many other towns and even inner cities are looking into this same type of new build or use of space on already existing facilities. Because we seem to be mavericks in this area, it is hard to find much good or bad info on our exact situation.
2)What many areas are currently doing and have been for the better part of a decade, is sharing playgrounds, tracks, and existing gymnasiums with the public, as a lot of areas are not fortunate enough to have rec centers. In all cases that I found, these shared areas were ONLY shared in non-school hours because of safety issues for the kids. Communities seemed to bond over the ability to share these spaces and were more than willing to compromise time in order to put the kids welfare first. By doing this compromise, some schools allowed groups such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and senior groups to use the school during non-school hours for meetings and events, free of charge. Boys and girls clubs as well as other community members could also use the gym for after school, weekend and summer activities, workouts and events and the groups and associations would pay a minimal rental fee. It seems to be a system that has worked well for other communities and most see not allowing outside individuals to use the facilities in non-school hours as just a common sense safety move.
Okay, so we are on the forefront of this new frontier and with the media attention that we have gotten over this issue, people will be standing back across the country waiting to see how we resolve the issue and how this brand new shared facility works for the rec center, the seniors, the school, the kids and the community. It will be especially interesting to those who are contemplating a similar facility in their area. Yes guys, eyes are on us and we can set the standard or we can actually embarrass ourselves. How? By refusing to act as an educated community and refusing to compromise. Plain and simple.
So here are my final opinions on this whole situation. Remember, these are MY opinions and no one elses. I am not claiming ultimate wisdom in this matter nor am I forcing anyone else to agree with me. I am simply stating my views as I see them after processing all the information that I have gained in the last few days. Again....just my opinions.
1) Those parents that brought their concerns to the forefront on this issue in the first place, should be commended for doing so. Their concern was not just for their own kids, but also for all the kids who will be sharing that facility with the rec center. Whether you agree with these parents or not, you should respect the fact that they do actually care. All you have to do is turn on the local news and you will realize that there are a lot of parents who really don't care. Our community is fortunate.
2)We have an amazing community of senior citizens. They are active, caring and very involved in all aspects of our town. They are a close knit group and they are the back bone of our community. They have been our leaders, teachers, neighbors and friends and they deserve our admiration and respect...and yes.....a cushy walking track. Again....our community is very fortunate.
2) As I understand it.....the shared facility was bought and paid for by the school bond issue and therefore I assume is considered a school building. Now I don't know law very well and I am no expert on how bond issues go, but I am thinking that the prospect of a "shared" building was a huge incentive for some (seniors included) to get on the band wagon and help pass the bond issue which hadn't previously passed in an earlier vote. Knowing that they would have a spiffy new walking track was a big motivator in getting some of our older citizens to get on board and to use their influence in the community to ensure a YES vote on this issue. However, in the end like it or not, the facility belongs to the school district and therefore should fall under all the guidelines, rules, security and privacy acts that the other school buildings currently practice. If that means no non-staff members or non-parents on site during school, then that is the rule. That right there should be the end of the discussion. The only way the discussion should be opened back up would be if:
a)A fair compromise was made that kept and followed all the current safety measures such as a curtain hung so the walkers can't see the kids and vice versa or something equally fair to both sides and yet protecting the safety of our kids.
b)The current rules, security and privacy acts in the district were completely revamped changing the rules and allowing non-staff and non-parents into every school building in the district without back ground checks whether they were known to staff and students or not.
Like it or not, if a compromise can't be met, then I have heard this issue will be taken further and you get the right representation in here and they see how things have been as far as safety, privacy and security go up until the first of April as compared to how safety might change when the possibility for the district to make money off the seniors becomes a factor, there could end up being state issues for this town and district to deal with. If that happens, then win or lose, this community will be further divided, possibly irrevocably. Doesn't it seem like a whole bunch of time and trouble could be saved if the community just acted like a community and compromised?
3)Finally.....we have been presented with a great opportunity no matter how unintentionally it was thrust upon us. We have the opportunity to show the state and the country how a little town in Kansas can be innovative, building a new shared facility, and how we can work as a close knit community to work out the inevitable bugs in the situation in a way that benefits everyone involved. We can show how truly wonderful this new facility and yes, how state of the art the track is as well as beneficial for everyone especially the seniors. We can show that the seniors in their infinite wisdom are willing to compromise in order to insure peace of mind for parents and ultimate safety for the kids and we can show that in our town, parents really do care about our kids, their safety and also the well being and happiness of our seniors. We can teach the country how small town folks come together and are willing to compromise in a way in which all can benefit and no one is left out. Mostly though, we can show that rather than emotionally dividing our town like it physically divides the school and rec center, this new facility can bring us together and help us show the world that it can be shared by all, enjoyed by all and still insure the safety and security of everyone involved.