The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: Vote yes on the school bond now, help Grinnell’s children thrive


If you stroll down Sixth Ave. headed for Dari Barn, you will likely notice a number of red-painted, wooden signs broadcasting “VOTE NO” in big, white lettering. Between the crimson panels, you will also see huge orange banners and smaller signs demanding you to do the opposite and “Vote YES for our kids.” What you will likely fail to gather from either sign, however, is exactly what you’re supposed to vote on and why you should even care about voting.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District will invite members of the Grinnell community to vote to approve a plan to build a new pre-K-5 elementary school to replace the three current ones, completely renovate the local middle school and update the HVAC system and create spaces intended for career and college preparation in the high school. After conducting internal and external audits, the school district and superintendent determined the proposed plan the best course of action to resolve the current schools’ crumbling and inefficient infrastructures; cramped classrooms; inaccessibility for students, staff, and visitors with disabilities; and general failure to meet the needs of 21st century teachers and learners.

A successful vote needs to pass at a margin of 60 percent, according to Iowa law. The district proposed this same bond in February, but the vote only gained a majority of 52 percent of the vote. Voting yes twice on Sept. 11 would grant the school district the power to move forward with their plan. Voting no would leave students and teachers to continue making do with the disintegrating schools they have. Investing in quality learning spaces for the children of our community seems like a no brainer, right? Well then, why does the community seem so polarized on the issue?

Opponents of the bond list a number of reasons to oppose the plan, but most of them boil down to safety for our community’s children and the cost of the plan. The first issue, safety, relates to how the district plans to build the proposed elementary school on a former industrial site that once had contaminated air and soil. Opponents to the bond suggest the area is still contaminated, but they are wrong. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources declared the soil and air quality safe in 2012 and an independent environmental consulting service followed suit in 2017. The Vote No side also fails to acknowledge how the proposed plan will actually improve students’ safety by providing more secure entryways, storm shelters, safer drop-off and pickup zones and updated infrastructure, so students will no longer have to contend with mold from leaks in walls and ceilings and electrical fires from old systems (there was an electrical fire in an elementary school just two weeks ago).

The next issue, money, is sensitive and valid for some. Voting yes on the school bond will raise property taxes $2.60 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, a rate that amounts to an increase of approximately 64 cents per day or $230 per year for the average household in Grinnell. While not a nominal amount, I would gladly sacrifice the cost of a soda per day or a couple cappuccinos per week at Saints Rest, so kids in my community can learn in safe, comfortable and adequate environments.

True, some members of the community will end up paying more than the average rate in taxes. Nevertheless, our community must confront the financial costs of our current schools. The district’s audits determined the cost to renovate the current schools would add up to $47 million and will continue to grow. We ought to build a new school and profit from selling the old properties, rather than continue seeking band-aid fixes for our outdated buildings at such a high cost.

At some point, our community must face the fact that we need to spend money to support our children’s education. We can proactively approve this school bond, or we can wait until our schools fail because we can’t keep up with the maintenance our outdated systems require. Forty years ago, our community watched the former middle school crumble until it was deemed unsafe for students and condemned. As a result, the district had to create an emergency education plan which required middle and high schoolers to split the high school for half days while they waited for the district to build a new middle school. While this is a drastic circumstance, it looms in my mind as something our community may face in the future if this bond fails. We must learn from our past mistakes.

At this point you may be thinking, “This is all fine and good, but why should I care about Grinnell’s public schools? I’m just a Grinnellian who has to use Google Maps to get to the bookstore.” I appreciate your honesty and concern. While you may not have spent much time in the community, your voice still matters.

The College and the Grinnell community have a symbiotic relationship, each depending on the other to exist. Do you want great professors at Grinnell? I bet they factor in the safety and quality of the schools their kids will attend before they decide to accept their positions. Do you want to live in a vibrant, growing community despite Iowa trends of population decline? New schools will attract members to Grinnell rather than other peer communities with far better schools than ours. Do you want young children to know the same excitement of learning in creative and fun spaces as we do from having opportunities to learn in Noyce, JRC, the Bear and the future HSSC? A new combined elementary school with modern spaces will do the trick. Do you care about equal access and opportunity for students in a rural community to which you have personal ties? Creating spaces designed to help all learners reach their personal, career and educational goals will reduce inequalities between students with different resources at home. We would all balk at the notion that only property owners should vote on key social justice issues like this one in any other situation, so why do we find that argument valid now?

As a lifelong citizen of Grinnell, alumna of the Grinnell-Newburg Community School district and fellow Grinnellian, I implore you to support the Grinnell community by voting yes twice on the school bond issue next Tuesday, Sept. 11 at the Elks Lodge. As students who benefit from the top-notch educational experience Grinnell affords, we know first-hand how key positive environments are for student success. Let’s do all we can to make sure our community’s children, our most precious resource, have all the tools they need to thrive.


—Lily Hamilton ’19

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *