Advertisement

To build or not to build

December 28, 1998

Predicting when new schools will be needed has always been an inexact science. Interest rates slide up a point or two or the economy slows because of a crisis halfway around the world and suddenly the expected surge in the number of new students doesn't materialize. Those who decided against building the new school look like geniuses.

But if things work out other way, and a booming economy spurs a wave of homebuilding, then the school planners have to play catch-up and use tools like redistricting and portable classrooms to cope.

This is the dilemma that faces Jefferson County, W.Va. now, where a predicted surge in population has some there calling for the start of planning for a new high school. Nearby Loudon County, Va., is expecting 22,000 new students in the next five years, a trend which could mean some student spillover for Jefferson County.

The school board is not in complete agreement on how to proceed, with one member noting that today's low interest rates would make a new school cheaper to construct, while another worries that talk of a big growth spurt is just talk right now, and shouldn't stampede the board into unneeded construction.

Advertisement

We agree that more study is needed, and suggest that concerned Jefferson Countians take a lesson from what concerned citizens in Boonsboro did in the early 1980s. Convinced that school board officials' population projections were too low, parents formed a committee that did its own, in part by talking directly to homebuilders to see how fast they planned to complete their subdivisions.

Coupling that sort of data with figures on how new school construction would affect local tax rates would give existing citizens a better estimate of what growth costs, and potential new residents a truer picture of what their cost of living would be.

Better information of the cost of growth might also stimulate more interest in things like farm preservation, and in crafting methods of taxation that spare long-time residents on fixed income from tax hikes based on growth they didn't ask for, and which doesn't benefit them.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|