Dear Editor,

I graduated from Almont Community Schools in 1968. I was proud of my education and the community that supported our school system. I spent the next five years at college earning my Bachelor and Masters degrees and then went to work in Ohio. I returned to Almont in 1979. Consequently, I have no first-hand knowledge of what happened in Almont during that time period.

While doing the research for my article, “Almont School Buildings—1969 to 1984”, I was exceptionally disturbed about what I found—a fifteen year period where the supposed adults of Almont demonstrated a total lack of concern for the school’s facilities and a lack of concern for the quality of education being provided by our school.

At the beginning of that period the school solved their overcrowding by creating excessively large class sizes– one year the fifth through seventh grades had class sizes of 39 to 46 students. The Board of Education did not have the classrooms to add teachers and lessen the classroom sizes.

Without any additional open spaces to convert to classrooms, the Board of Education was forced, beginning with the 1976-77 school year, to operate on split sessions. The high school students came to school as early as 6:30 a.m. and the middle school students went home at late as 5:30 p.m. Split sessions continued for six years. Only when the post-war Baby Boom subsided and people had moved out of the school district, was the school able to return to a single session. However, it was necessary to continue the use of non-classroom open spaces.

During this time, the Board of Education on four occasions requested through bond issues the funding to construct new school buildings. Those projects would have eliminated the classroom overcrowding. These facilities would also have provided the community with school facilities that meet the educational needs of our students for an education in the 1970s–not a 1920s building with basically only general classroom additions.

In 1986, the community was forced to address the issues. The State Fire Marshall condemned 21 out of the school’s 45 classrooms. The adults of Almont did not act to meet the facility needs of our school until the very lives of our children had been put at risk!

The new high school and renovations to the old school resulted in people flocking to live in Almont. In 1996 and again in 2002, the adults of Almont approved extensions to the Debt Retirement Millage at 8.45 mills to allow the district to construct Orchard Primary and the Middle School and address the needs of our children.

The sole purpose of the current bond issue is to meet the needs of our children. It was prepared by the current Board of Education with the help and assistance of our school’s educational professionals. These people are more prepared to identify our children’s needs than any community members. They see the effect of the facilities on our children on a daily basis. They recognize the state of the current facilities which need major repairs because of their age. They also recognize that the current facilities need major upgrades and additions to meet the educational needs of the 2020s. The additions include added general classrooms, special classrooms and addition athletic facilities to meet the practice needs of our children.

I have reread all of the recent editorials on the bond issue. Those editorials that oppose the bond emphasize money and rarely mention the educational needs of the community’s children. Those editorials that support the bond emphasize the educational needs of the community’s children and have few mentions of money.

The real decision that will be decided at the polls is “Who gets to suffer?”

When the bond passes, the children of our community will get upgraded and additional facilities that permit the school to meet their education needs and will have a permanent positive effect on the quality of their entire lives. The adults will have to continue to pay the Debt Retirement Millage for an additional period of time (current estimated to be about 22 years) but at a reduced rate–7 mills down from 8 mills. This will continue the Debt Retirement Millage which began in 1952! Adults get to suffer for a period of time.

If the millage fails, the Debt Retirement Millage will lessen until the school’s debt is paid off and then it will no longer exist. The adults will have additional money to spend. The children, however, will be educated in old, overcrowded, deteriorating facilities that lack the spaces of a modern school building. The school system despite the best efforts of our teachers and administrators will be providing an inferior education to the community’s children that will adversely affect them for their entire lives. Children get to suffer for the rest of their lives.

To me the choice is clear. Which do you value more–money or the quality of life of the children of the community. As an adult, I have the ability to adjust my spending habits to minimize the effect of the millage. But our children do not have a means to lessen the negative effects of an inferior education on their entire lives. I choose the children.

— Jim Wade