A recent tour of the virtually completed new high school on Lake Lucerne Road threw welcome light on a question which has arisen over the many months since the project began -- namely, whether the whole project was necessary in its final form, or whether it is a boondoggle -- too expensive, too audacious, just too much for our little corner of the world.
The short answer is No.
What price education, you ask? The original budget for the project was $9,932,000, to be paid off over 30 years. Which is a big pile of simoleons.
Everyone is entitled to an educated opinion, of course, by which we mean an informed opinion, and the best way to get that information, in this case, is to go see the school. It is located at 2 Lake Lucerne Rd., just down the hill from the elementary and middle schools. That's 1.68 miles from Basin Park, which means you can walk there if you have to, to take a look.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the old saying goes, and with the new high school, the city and school district have received a feast on par with the best Thanksgiving spread you ever dug into.
Over 80,000 square feet. A completely automated environment, which not only makes sure the air is fresh enough not only for safety, but enough to keep everybody awake on sleepy afternoons, as well as the fact the heating and cooling systems can be reset from the superintendent's cell phone -- if it's a snow day, nobody has to get out of bed; completely updated, cutting-edge media center, EAST lab (set up for robotics and GPS surveying, among other projects); chemistry and biology labs; a full stage in the auditorium that can seat over 350 people; indoor/outdoor cafeteria dining; a beautiful new gym that can seat 1200 people, making Eureka Springs High School capable of hosting district athletic tournaments, to see which, many of those 1200 people will stay in Eureka hotels and eat in Eureka restaurants, bring in tourism dollars; two green rooms for TV projects; an in-progress Life Skills building next door; totally wireless communication; extensive parking; and atop else, room to expand.
Let's assume you are not in favor of the new school because you are not interested in education, have no kids and no dogs in this fight. Fair enough. But unless you fall into that category, consider the fact the vastly improved facilities will certainly improve test scores, which means a whole 'nother level of educational opportunities down the road for many of these kids. Or the fact these kids will have enough opportunities right out of high school to follow other vocational paths, should they choose. Or the fact this new school will certainly draw new students (for which it is prepared) and teachers. Or the fact we are living in a constantly changing world on every level, and it is profoundly unfair to ankle our kids with substandard or mediocre educations when it is possible to give them a whole, whole lot more.
Those who graduated high school in past decades may well remember, as we do, going to school when there were typewriters and books and a mimeograph machine. Computers were quaint or far away.
One colleague put it like this: "I went to school in Palmer. Ala., which at the time had a cutting-edge school. When I moved to Arkansas, I felt like I had moved to Little House on the frickin' Prairie! I'm glad my kid gets to go to this new school!"
There is nothing wrong with making do when you have to, and we have all done our best given our educations. But this is an opportunity for our community's children to rise above for decades to come, and it should be embraced wholeheartedly.