The citizens of this community have supported many very expensive new and renovated facilities over the years: the new hospital, Veterans Park and the football complex; renovations of the library, courthouse, Carnegie building, city parks, baseball fields, city swimming pool, YMCA playground, etc.
Now we will be voting on a bond issue for or against a new, large elementary school building. Unfortunately, the plan is to tear down the neighborhood elementary schools and replace them with one very large elementary school on the very eastern edge of town.
From an organizational and administrative perspective, this plan may make sense. However, there is another perspective. Before moving to Beatrice in 1978 we drove around town looking for a house to live in and we also looked at all four neighborhood elementary schools for our children. I believe that most families moving here have done and will continue to do the very same thing.
Beatrice is fortunate to have four neighborhood elementary schools. These schools showcase the Beatrice community as a welcoming, family-oriented place to live. A neighborhood elementary school promotes a feeling of belonging, a place to be proud of, a place for children to play safely on the playground or ball field or basketball court. It is within walking distance for many children and teachers. It is accessible every evening and one weekends and many children enjoy these facilities.
Families appreciate having a neighborhood elementary school. It is an American icon, a place that creats many friendships and fond memories. On a personal note, every time I fly to Dayton, Ohio, my hometown, I drive by Holy Rosary school, a neighborhood elementary school that all seven of my siblings and I attended for eight years (no middle school) along with many children from North Dayton. We all appreciated the solid education we received there, and the friendships established with teachers and other students.
Our four elementary schools have served Beatrice well. Proponents of the new school plan to say that it will never be cheaper to build a single large, new elementary school building because of low interest rates. That may be true, but that is also true for buying a brand new car, truck, boat or a trip to Hawaii. That doesn’t mean we should do all those.
There is a significant social cost to the community when traditional icons are eliminated: the sense of belonging, the pride of the community, the easy access to school and the amenities it provides, the feeling of safety when the neighborhood school is surrounded by families invested in their school system. Neighborhood elementary schools are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell images: friendly, personal, teeming with life, reminders of memorable times and loving relationships.
So I will throw out a suggestion, renovate all four elementary schools. In fact, add three more grades and bypass the Middle School. Sell the land allocated for the current plan for a down payment on the renovations. Keep those special American icons and make them even more special. Don’t forget, it will never be cheaper to create another worthy project that we will be proud of.
Roger Aveyard, Beatrice