Although the discussion about whether to build a new middle school has been long and contentious, everyone can agree on at least one thing: We need to address the current state of the two buildings that serve Baker School District's seventh- and eighth-graders.
And that's what Measure 34, the $21 million bond measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, attempts to do.
The two historic structures that comprise the current middle school campus are the 91-year-old Central Building, first built as Baker High School, and the 73-year-old Helen M. Stack Building. Both are showing their age and the effects of deferred maintenance.
Some have argued that taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for a new building when the school district didn't take care of the buildings it had. But the school district leaders who put off that maintenance are long gone, and punishing the district's long-term inattention would be unfair to the students who continue to attend the aging schools as the community debate continues.
Some of Measure 34's opponents argue that remodeling is the better option because the historic Central and Stack buildings should be preserved. To their credit, following the defeat of last November's bond levy, the school board commissioned an architect's study on feasibility of remodeling, which returned an estimate of $25 million on the low side as compared to another architectural firm's estimate of $21 million for a new school.
The current school board will not choose to remodel those buildings. When asked before the last election what the plan would be if the levy were to fail, board members indicated that they would continue to put it on the ballot until it passed.
That's not fair, either because that, too, leaves Baker Middle School students waiting in unacceptable buildings with no Plan B should future levies fail.
At the last school board election one sitting board member was replaced, and two were re-elected; not by huge margins, but re-elected nonetheless. So the chances of moving forward on any plan other than a new school in the next four years are slim, and no upgrades or remodels to the old school buildings will occur in the meantime.
Both sides of the debate have resorted to dubious claims, attacks and less-than-admirable tactics. No doubt some are casting votes more to spite their opponents than to support a solution.
But this isn't about approving or disapproving behavior. It's about approving a better learning environment for our students.
If you disapprove of the leadership, voting no won't help but calling a school board member to say so might.
At this juncture, a new school is less costly and can be approved and built in less time than it would take to wait for a new set of district leaders to seriously consider a remodel.
Vote yes on measure 34.