Vail Daily column: ‘Yes’ to school questions | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: ‘Yes’ to school questions

Markian Feduschak
Valley Voices

The ballot issues 3A and 3B, the mill levy override and bond proposal for Eagle County Schools, are an important call to action for leveraging our community's collective resources. Each of these ballot issues contains important initiatives that will ensure our students receive high quality education in safe and healthy buildings for years to come. Walking Mountains Science Center's board of directors supports these important ballot issues for the benefit of our teachers, students and environment.

Working in close partnership with Eagle County Schools, Walking Mountains provides hands-on science and environmental education to more than 4,500 students annually. The strength of this partnership enhances our students' achievement in science while connecting them to our spectacular mountain environment. Students participate in field science programs at our science center in Avon as well as field sites throughout Eagle County.

Imagine the excitement of sixth-graders learning about geomorphology by exploring the fossil beds in McCoy or the enthusiasm of third-graders learning about sustainable energy here at our LEED Platinum science center in Avon. We also provide afterschool programs such as Girls in Science at the elementary schools and the middle school STEM Leadership Academy. The partnership between Eagle County Schools and Walking Mountains allows for more diverse educational opportunities and we believe students should be provided even more opportunities inside and outside the classroom. The ballot issues 3A and 3B will provide important improvements in the quality of our students' experience throughout their academic careers.

The mill levy override (3A) contains important provisions for reducing class sizes and ensuring a rich and diverse curriculum with additional resources towards art, music, physical and STEM education. Budget cuts during the Great Recession, approximately $14 million for Eagle County Schools alone (2009-2011), significantly reduced these opportunities for students which are all important for intellectual and academic development. Our staff works with a dedicated group of Eagle County Schools teachers who provide quality instruction and an engaging curriculum. Research shows the best indicator of student success is the quality of instruction provided by classroom teachers. Eagle County Schools must provide a competitive and livable wage. The well documented lower pay of Eagle County Schools teachers puts our school district at a distinct disadvantage in recruitment and retention. Our students will clearly be the beneficiary of the strategic components of this important mill levy override.

The bond proposal (3B) will ensure our students are able to learn in safe,uncrowded schools, in particular as our student population continues to grow. In addition to remodeling, an important capital project across the district is improving energy efficiency and saving utility costs. Energy efficiency improvements are a proven, low-risk and reliable method for long-term savings and tremendous returns which can be redirected towards more important expenditures. For example, it is reasonable to assume the district could save up to 20 percent of annual energy costs of approximately $1.2 million — that's an additional $240,000 annually that could go towards deferred maintenance, technology improvements, paying down debt, or any number of important priorities. These types of savings are obviously good for financial and environmental health reasons. As Eagle County government works with the community to implement the notable Climate Action Plan, Eagle County Schools can be at the forefront of reducing CO2 emissions and preserving our health and environment for the long term.

To ensure appropriate spending and accountability, all spending associated with 3A and 3B would be publicly disclosed and overseen by a citizens committee, which would provide an important mechanism for accountability and citizens' input. In addition, the mill levy override has a sunset provision of seven years, which allows voters to reconsider future support. As a nonprofit whose mission is focused on science education and environmental stewardship, our board of directors believes 3A and 3B benefit our entire community and we urge you to vote "yes" on these important ballot issues.

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Markian Feduschak is president of Walking Mountains Science Center.