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Let’s take an open mind into referendum

It looks likely that voters in the New Hampton Community Schools will be heading to the polls in early February to decide if the school district will build a new middle school.A committee of community members, teachers and other district staff members have spent months working to put together a proposal that they believe will meet the needs of the school district and also take into account concerns expressed by those who were against the September 2014 referendum.Back then, voters overwhelmingly rejected a $29 million plan that would have led to the construction of a single PreK-12 campus. No voters, or at least the ones who shared their opinions with School Board members at the time, said they balked at both the price tag and the fact that the school would abandon its downtown complex that currently houses elementary and middle school students.The 1913 building that is the centerpiece of the downtown complex needs to be replaced has served this community well for more than 100 years, but it’s time has come and gone. It does not come anywhere near meeting both today’s building codes and educational standards, and it has the potential to become a maintenance nightmare for the school district.Under the plan that voters will decide upon Feb. 7, the top two floors of the 1913 building will be “closed off” and the first floor will basically be used as a “connector” to the 1939 building and the elementary wing that was built in the 1960s.We, like most voters, need more information on the upcoming referendum before making a decision, yet at the same time, we would really hope that residents will take the time to study the issue in the next two months so that they can cast an informed vote.In 2014, 2,167 voters cast ballots in the referendum, yet at none of the public meetings held before the meeting were there more than a couple of hundred residents in attendance.We’d like to see that change when it comes to the 2017 vote, and we’d really like to see the “us-versus-them” mentality go away. Committee members and school administrators have worked hard to come up with what they believe is a good proposal, and while we totally understand that not everyone will agree with it, we should respect the work they’ve done.And while many of us are tired of “elections” after the bruising campaign we’ve just endured, we think this question — one that deals with educating not only our current students but our young people well into the future — is important enough to devote the time and energy to so that we all can cast a well-researched vote.

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