The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 5, 2012

Sunday Forum: Baxter Springs needs support for schools

The Joplin Globe

— In the early 1900s, the young people of Baxter Springs, Kan., obtained their high school education in two phases. They attended the old Lincoln School their freshman and sophomore years then traveled to Columbus for their junior and senior years.

The residents of Baxter Springs chose to provide a senior high school for their young people and started the construction of the building that is presently the middle school at 15th and Cleveland streets in 1919.

The new senior high school was completed and formally opened in 1921. For the next 55 years, this building was the home of our educational process for grades seven through 12.

Late in 1972, the educational buildings in Baxter Springs were evaluated by the school’s administration and board of education. A decision was made to separate the junior and senior high schools, build a new senior high school complex, and make much-needed repairs to all existing buildings within the district. On June 26, 1973, the residents in our district were asked to approve or disapprove a $1.6 million school bond issue that would finance the construction of a completely new building and provide funds for the repair and remodeling of existing buildings. The residents responded to the need and approved the bond by a wide margin. After months of design and redesign work, invitation to bid was advertised. In December of 1973, bids were opened and evaluated. After consultation with contractors and the architect, it became apparent the building program was a victim of the inflation spiral, and the funds voted on by the people were inadequate for the complete building.

It was apparent that the majority of our residents wanted a complete new facility. The board made the decision to hold another special election, asking for an additional $400,000 from voters. On March 12, 1974, our residents once again responded to the educational needs of our young people by voting for the supplemental bond and approving it by another wide margin. This new senior high school was dedicated on Jan. 25, 1976.

Now, 36 years later, the school board is asking us to approve or disapprove an $8 million bond issue for much-needed buildings for our future leaders. If approved, it will require a $9 million levy to retire the debt. It is my understanding that the state will pick up 58 percent of the principle and interest due on this bond issue, and that this is very likely going to be the final year for this type of state participation.

Now is the time to step forward and show the Tri-State Area that we back the dedicated staff, which we are very fortunate to have, and to send a message to our young people that “yes, we care about your educational opportunities and safety.” The new classrooms would also be built to serve as FEMA-certified storm shelters at Lincoln, Central and the high school.

If the townspeople of 1974 hadn’t stepped forward and accepted their responsibilities to our young people and our community, where would we be today?

See you at the polls on May 8.

Huey York is the former mayor of Baxter Springs.