District needs school facilities to support increased student achievement goals
Published 5:20 pm Saturday, March 17, 2018
By Chad Shealy
The Vicksburg Warren School District’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to ask Warren Countians to decide whether or not to support a school facilities bond to improve our buildings. If passed, this bond issue will address a large backlog of infrastructure deficiencies.
These critical improvements will make our buildings safer, address overcrowding at our schools and provide updated spaces that will support the necessary learning of today’s 21st century student.
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Today, the District is in better shape academically than it has been in some time.
The four-year graduation rate is the highest it has been since 2009 and five schools have earned the grade of B, whereas two years ago, only one school earned this grade.
Additionally, this year more than 1,025 students are enrolled in dual credit AP courses, compared to only 717 two years ago.
River City Early College is growing and is providing an opportunity for its students to graduate with an associates degree, transferable college credits or an industry certification, at the same time as they are earning their high school diploma.
The number of pre-K classes has increased from two to 14 and are providing a solid early foundation to over 320 of our youngest students. The list goes on.
Certainly, the District is moving in the right direction and at a pace that is almost unheard of, but our facilities are not keeping up.
Voters last approved a bond issue for $1 million in 1969. Now, 62 percent of our schools are over 50 years old (built in 1968 or older) and two of them were built the same year that WWII began — 79 years ago.
Aging schools not only face increased repair and maintenance needs, but require upgrades to accommodate new instructional technologies and modern educational programs.
In an Issue Brief, the Center for Innovative School Facilities reported that “school facilities have a measurable impact on the achievement of our children … While factors such as teachers and parental involvement have an indisputable impact on student achievement, well-designed school facilities — the places where our children spend the majority of their waking hours — can significantly bolster whatever human inputs our students receive. On the other hand, poorly designed or maintained buildings threaten to undermine every other effort we may put into our educational system.”
They went on to point out that in a set of 20 studies analyzed by the 21st Century School Fund, all but one study showed a positive correlation between the achievement of students and the condition of the school facility and that the overwhelming results of these studies show how counterproductive it would be to push for increased student achievement without providing school facilities that integrally support such achievement.
The proven growth mentioned earlier will continue, regardless of the community’s decision to support the facilities bond.
Our commitment to doing what is right for kids and to graduate all students college, career and life prepared will stand.
What this community needs to ask itself is: “Are you willing to invest in a brighter future? And how quickly do you want to get there?”
Chad Shealy is superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District.