Kim Hudson: Education is a crucial community investment

Ever experienced déjà vu? This French word literally means “already seen” and most of us have probably had the feeling that what we are experiencing at the moment has happened before.

I feel like that this week.

As I sat down to write this column I knew what topic was weighing on my mind. And as I began to put my thoughts together everything sounded so familiar.

In January of 2012 I wrote a column about Bennett Middle School. You might recall that the Board of Education was trying to secure the support of the County Council and County Executive to build a new school.

Many of you may remember that the Council was divided on this issue and initially the majority vote was not in favor of a new school. However, the facts spoke clearly in this case and after much debate and public input the council voted again – this time in favor of building this new school.

I feel like we are back in 2012 again.

This time the school in question is West Salisbury Elementary. This time we are talking about a school that serves children at a most impressionable age. This time we are not talking about a school that sits in the middle of town (as the current Bennett Middle does) with literally hundreds of people passing it every day.

West Salisbury sits in a corner of our county; out of sight out of mind for many.

There has been a lot of talk about West Salisbury – mainly the lack of air conditioning. What I hope we, as a community, understand is that we are talking about so much more than air conditioning.

A team of experts – experienced, knowledgeable experts – have made the recommendation that a new school is needed. This recommendation is not made lightly.

West Salisbury Elementary has exceeded its useful life. It continues to operate because of the quality of maintenance performed on it. Systems in this building have been replaced one at a time and there comes a time where the costs to repair far outweigh the cost to replace.

We are past that time.

West Salisbury Elementary School’s media center is in a portable. Closets have been remade into makeshift work spaces. The cafeteria serves also as a gymnasium and auditorium where lunch is served and physical education classes are held.

The electrical system (and current windows) will not support air conditioning units. The instructional needs of the students have exceeded the capacity of the building.

As with Bennett Middle School in 2012, the time is now. Interest rates are very low and the state will fund 97 percent of the “bricks and mortar” costs of a new school.

What are we afraid of Wicomico County?

Education is an investment. Up to date facilities only bring more value to our community. And, more importantly, our students deserve better.

All of our students.

It’s a new year and we need a new plan. Let’s roll up our sleeves, work together and make this the year for real change in Wicomico County.

Kim Hudson is a member of the Wicomico County school board. Contact her at tkhudson@comcast.net.

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