Will be voting ‘yes’ Tuesday

To the editor:

I want to express some thoughts on the current situation of Duncombe Elementary School. The facts before us are that we have an existing building with structural deficiencies. Duncombe Elementary was built in 1912 and is 104 years of age. This summer while performing annual maintenance, structural deficiencies were discovered by school staff after removing some casework under the existing windows. After a professional review, school administration made a prudent decision to relocate 343 students to the former Fair Oaks Middle School. These types of situations cannot always be forecast and when they do happen, we should not gamble with our children’s safety. The time to act on Duncombe is now, and the time to assess the public school’s other facility needs is now.

Based upon careful consideration, the Fort Dodge school board and administration is asking us to support a bond referendum that will improve public education in our community and enhance our students’ educational, athletic and extracurricular experience. These projects being proposed are a wise investment by our community and in my experience, a responsible solution to the problems our public schools are facing. Other options, like remodeling Duncombe or adding on, are expensive and it will not promise to serve our students well beyond the short term. To bring the existing building up to code would be a heavy investment, and still, after spending a large sum of money, you would be left with a building that is a century old, designed for students and a style of learning over a hundred years old. A newer facility will allow our teachers to rely on many more tools to educate our children and improve the educational experience especially in relation to technology, efficiency of space, lighting and climate. As many building owners are aware, no matter how many times you renovate your building, there comes a time and a place where the costs for upgrading just outweigh the costs for building new. They face the fact that their building has served its purpose, and the wise investment is to build new. Hospitals, factories and churches are faced with this same process every day.

I also want to point out that the existing administrative building formerly known as Arey Elementary School, serves the community well as administrative offices. The district was wise to repurpose this facility to serve in its current capacity. This building is actively used to serve our community by housing administrative staff, special educational programs, providing meeting space, and other ancillary services. The costs for renovating Arey back into an elementary school would cost millions of dollars which would be extremely cost-prohibitive, and add onto that, the need for additional office and administrative space would only exacerbate the costs.

The other projects being considered by this referendum are high priority needs. The academic section or pod area does not serve students or staff well. The classrooms from 1969 were never intended to be a permanent solution to classroom space needs. This space is not handicap-accessible, hinders public safety and it should be renovated. The condition of the wrestling and locker rooms are poor. They are being used in a means and capacity that their original design cannot keep up with. This creates a health risk for our students as they use and occupy this space. Modernizing these spaces and relocating into the auxiliary gyms provide our students with the ability to conduct their practices in a more safe and healthy environment. The addition of a second gym, attached to the high school, will also provide a feasible option for students to stay and compete at the high school. These projects are not complicated projects. They are cost-effective projects that will provide a good return for our children and our community.

Through conversations and meetings, I can assure you that our school representatives have laid out a well- thought-out and responsible plan. Duncombe Elementary and the other projects will be built without wasted dollars.

We can all agree that our community wants to create safe and responsive environments for our children at all times and places. Taking care of our schools is a great way for us to do so. Let’s not miss this opportunity to provide a safe environment but also to enhance their educational experience as well. We all benefit, whether we have kids in the public school or not. The condition of all of our schools speaks loudly to the outside community, how we as a citizens of Fort Dodge value our children’s education, safety and well-being.

I will be voting yes to both Ballot Question A and B and I hope you all will join me.

Keith Kolacia

Fort Dodge