Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Time To Speak

Jilda and I had an opportunity to attend career day at Sumiton School this past week. It was a delightful experience. The kids were well behaved and for the most part, very interested in what we had to say about life and work.
To be honest, I was surprised by how we were received by the kids, and encouraged about the future when these kids move into the workplace.
I also saw something that concerns me deeply. 
Sumiton Middle School was built for 600 students, but this year’s enrollment is more than 800 students. 
If this school were a prison, the federal government would be all over the county like spaghetti on a white shirt because of the overcrowding. There would be fines and penalties and mandatory release of criminals back into the mainstream. The national media would set up camp like they were waiting for the next sighting of a UFO.
Instead, we squeeze the kids into trailers set up on the property for “temporary” classrooms.  I counted 16 trailers currently on the property. Many of these units don’t have bathrooms so children have to leave the trailer and go to the main school building to use a restroom. 
The future of America rests in the hands of our children and I believe one of our biggest responsibilities is to provide an environment where kids can learn. The Good Book tells us “you reap what you sow,” and I’m concerned about the seeds we are planting right now.
Beyond the functionality and esthetics of the trailers, is the safety issue.  A year or so ago, a tornado hit Enterprise High School in south Alabama killing eight students. This was in a solid structure. Closer to home, another twister destroyed Carbon Hill Elementary School on Nov. 2, 2002. Thankfully, that outbreak was on Sunday and no kids were harmed.
 It gives me nightmares to think of what would happen if a tornado struck the 16 trailers at Sumiton Elementary School.
The school has a tornado plan where they move kids out of the trailers and into the main building whenever the weather service issues tornado warnings, but there have been times when tornadoes strike with little or no warning.
Some call Walker County  “Tornado Alley” and information listed on seems to add weight to that claim.  “Walker County historical area-adjusted tornado activity is above Alabama state average. It is 4.1 times above overall U.S. average.
Tornadoes in this county have caused 9 fatalities and 51 injuries recorded between 1950 and 2004.”
Here’s the thing, it is not my intention to point fingers or try to lay blame. This problem didn’t happen overnight. Times are tough and money is tight. I’m sure everyone else in the county would love for all of our children to attend a nice, safe school, but there is always the issue of where to find the money. When the economy goes south, everyone has to make difficult choices, local politicians are no different.
As most of you know, a lot of my columns tend to be humorous. I try to stay out of politics, but this is no laughing matter. 
To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, There is a time for everything – a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.  I believe now is the time to speak up for our children.

1 comment:

  1. Well, that could be your first retirement project - campaigning for more funds for schools. You're right in being concerned. We all talk about our children being the future of our country. Here in Arizona, budget cuts are encroaching on the school system funding. Now, some people are upset that funds are being diverted from special projects in order to pay teachers salaries. To me, teachers are more important then many of the "special projects."


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