Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

Number’s don’t lie

July 5, 2007

We're extremely interested in the findings that demographer Robert S. Schwarz, with the Olathe firm RSP, provided the Baldwin School District. The numbers don't justify closing either Marion Springs or Vinland elementary schools. Schwarz also said the district's enrollment will decline in the next five years.

Wow. We're not too surprised with the finding on the rural schools. While debate has raged for years about them, evidently they are carrying their weight. In fact, better utilization of those schools, i.e. funneling more students there from Baldwin City, may be the answer rather than a new elementary school.

But, frankly, we're beyond even the shock Board Member Ande Parks expressed about the predicted decline in enrollment.

We don't pretend to be experts in the field of demographing, as is Schwarz. But, we've got to wonder -- more than just a little -- how that can be?

Baldwin City has experienced steady small growth for years, usually around the 3 percent number that suits us just fine. It's growth, but not the huge jumps that other cities in the area -- specifically Gardner on the mammoth side, Eudora on the high side and even Edgerton coming fast -- have experienced.

We don't want that here, but we certainly expect we'll see growth as a result of 13,000 new jobs being added around Gardner, barely 20 miles to the east of us. How can that not happen?

That's why we'll say right now we're skeptical of these numbers. If Schwarz is right -- and he claims he is 90 percent of the time within the five-year timeframe -- so be it. If he's not and we're part of that "other" 10 percent, where are we at?

Right where we are now, with no new school buildings and wondering if we should build.

That's just part of it, too. The other million-dollar question here is what to do about the aging Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center? It's become a money pit. Do we continue to throw money down that hole or bite the bullet and build a new primary center?

We don't know. And, the school board -- faced with that decision -- apparently doesn't seem to, either. We don't envy their decision on what to put in front of voters regarding a bond issue.

That being said, it needs to be done. Even if it's decided not to build a new school, the district has serious needs.

And could those needs include space for an influx of students from the Intermodal?

It's certainly possible, regardless of Schwarz's opinion. With massive growth in Gardner and Edgerton, won't at least some parents opt for the smaller class sizes afforded by the Baldwin district?

We think so. We also think Baldwin City's infrastructure, which he eluded to, is up for growth. There are many houses on the market. We built it. They will come. Bank on it.

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