I recently had the privilege of using the bathrooms at the American Falls Intermediate School the other day. I instantly noticed something disturbing, unseen to some but perfectly visible to me. I could see it because, one, I was once a school janitor, and two, I was once a boy.
The urinals are too high. That’s a problem. The bathroom was super clean, a compliment to the janitors there. But it can’t be easy for a short fifth grade boy to use those urinals. Obviously, they were meant for students going to high school, which the school once was.
But even doubt short high schoolers would be comfortable. The architect must’ve had high hopes (yes, very high) that American Falls would be a major producer of basketball players. Unfortunately, and I don’t mean to offend anyone with this sensitive subject, that’s not the case.
The American Falls School District wants to remodel the building, and it’s easy to see why. There’s gotta be pee all over that floor by the end of the day. And, of course, that’s just the beginning.
I also spend a lot of time at Hillcrest Elementary, visiting there approximately 522 times every day (anyone who had a kid in kindergarten and a kid in first grade at the same time knows what I mean). The school district says that Hillcrest is packed with kids. I don’t see it. I walk in and there’s plenty of room to move freely. They can fit the whole school into the gym, but not on chairs of course, and only some of the students have to sit on other students during assemblies.
No, the overcrowding isn’t really about too many children. It’s about not enough staff. It’s about not enough staff to keep class sizes low(ish) and enough staff to develop new and exciting educational programs, some of them required by state and federal law. It’s about not having enough administration to adequately supervise more staff and more children.
The school could hire more staff, but where would they put them? Staff need offices. Staff need classrooms and other places to meet with students.
One solution is to just not have those programs. No computer labs, no speech therapy, no special education, no English as a Second Language program. Obviously, Hillcrest would struggle.
When I went to elementary, P.E. only happened a handful of times each year, when a visiting instructor would drag us out of class and make us do stretches. Music occurred occasionally in one of the second grade teachers classroom, where we gathered together and sang folk songs. It was okay, but I don’t really want to turn the clock back 30 years.
It’s easy to see why the school district thought it could kill two birds with one stone by expanding and remodeling the intermediate school. And adding a gym at the high school seemed like a no-brainer too, since, unfortunately, the dream of possible NBA talent never materialized and won’t until there’s a place for every basketball team to practice.
Since the failure of the bond to do just that, the school district has tried to come up with a plan they feel will get passed, something that is generated by people in the district.
The school district should have asked for ideas before presenting its own idea to remodel the intermediate school and build a gym, but hindsight is 20/20. But I don’t think any idea I’ve heard can top the original plan.
The bonds to build a gym and to remodel the intermediate school need to be separated. That way the school district can really see what the community wants. And I would like to see some fundraising done by the people who really want another gym. They won’t be able to raise enough to pay for it, but they can raise enough to show the rest of us that it is a good idea and they may be able to leverage some grant funds as well.
But the school district should try its bond again. Maybe this time, voters consideration of the problems will be more complete. Hopefully, complete enough to at least remodel the bathrooms.
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