Urges look at Iowa Juvenile Home for South Tama Middle School

Letter to the Editor:

The middle school bond issue failed, but it wasn’t for lack of caring about the kids or a lack of understanding the need. It failed because of a lack of sharing a real plan, unanswered financing questions and concerns about the proposed location. Name calling and lack of direct dialog has caused a great amount of tension. What do we do now? It is time for EVERYONE to work together.

Most important is to make the current school as safe as possible. We will be using the current building for at least 2-4 more years. Take the needed money from the cash on hand and fix the critical issues without delay.

Also, the district needs to look at possible locations of a new school.

The location at the high school would place all of the students in our district and all 3 buildings in a very close proximity. Is that what should be done to promote safety? With added foot and auto traffic will the Iowa Department of Transportation plan a 63 bypass of our communities? While we pray that it never happens, the Marshalltown tornado as well as others in our area and around the country bring up the very real possibility of a storm endangering our students and damaging our schools. What about a fire? Or even more unthinkable would be an active shooter situation. Do we really want all of the students and the district’s assets to be in such close proximity?

In my opinion, I think we need to take a harder look at the Iowa Juvenile Home. The amount of land and the setting would make a beautiful campus. A park like setting which includes room for athletic fields some of which are already in place. Traffic would not be an issue and parking could be incorporated into the design. The main building would be a great starting point to build off of. Build the needed classrooms and design for future needs and expansion. Other possible uses for the campus could be administration, maintenance or even district wide dietary needs. I know it has been said that costs would be virtually the same for the high school location and the IJH. But in reality, until you have a designer with a vision to develop a plan to utilize the IJH we really don’t know for sure. We have intelligent individuals that steer the school. Think of the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to take the IJH from an unused facility to a functional modern middle school complex that school districts around the state would envy. And do it all at a reasonable cost. Find the best possible option with a basic plan and costs as close to accurate as are possible. Then hold finance meetings where there is open two-way communication and the ability for the public to ask the hard questions face to face instead of written on cards. Hold these meetings before voting starts possibly before calling for a bond issue vote. There shouldn’t be their side or our side, it should be the community. We need to do this for the kids but we also need to remember the kids of today, as young adults in the future, will be paying for our decisions. I am far from an expert, but sometimes even experts lose sight of common-sense resource utilization. Let’s take the time to get it right!!

Randy Zimmermann

Rural Tama