Vote yes or vote no? The Knox Elementary School Palmer Wing project is now in the hands of the voters as taxpayers in the Knox school district head to the polls today. Voters will decide whether or not to finance through property taxes the construction of a new wing and the demolition of the old Palmer Wing, which Superintendent A.J. Gappa said is antiquated, dilapidated, and overall unfit for education.
Gappa said the wing was originally built nearly 60 years ago – a different time, he said, when electricity wasn’t as advanced, heating and cooling was much less effective, and fewer kids ate in the cafeteria. He said 20 years ago when the west wing of the school was added, California and Washington township schools were closed, bringing more students to the Knox school and putting more strain on the old cafeteria.
“So now, instead of 300-400 students in the building, there’s over 900 students. And when you add the adults to that, there’s over 1000 people that are serviced by the cafeteria each day,” said Gappa.
That’s not even the only problem, according to Gappa. He said the electricity is antiquated and unable to support the equipment necessary in today’s age – that is, computers, internet, and a variety of other electronic devices.
“But in addition to just the cafeteria, the electricity is maxed out in the building; we can’t add any more circuits, so therefore we don’t have the ability to run the necessary computers. For example, ISTEP tests can’t be given at that end, because to do them online, computers have to be plugged in at the west end of the building. Those kids in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades that take the ISTEP have to be moved elsewhere to take their test,” said Gappa.
He said the new wing would feature a larger cafeteria that would service both ends of the building without a problem. A properly built and maintained cafeteria capable of servicing all the kids in the building with a room big enough in which to feed them. Gappa said the new wing would be large enough to provide enough classrooms for all the students and allow expansion as well.
Not everyone is all gung-ho about the idea, however. Nathan Marcum opposes the increase, and he said the timing for the project is all wrong. With the level of debt currently faced by taxpayers, he said now is not the time to worry about rectifying non-critical problems at the school.
“I feel we can wait until our present debt level falls off. As far as building the building, I have no problem with building it, but I feel that we need to wait until we can actually afford it. There are no major repairs that can’t hold off until the debt falls off at the present level,” said Marcum.
Marcum said the proposed rate is more than the taxpayers can bear. He said the business people in the county would suffer the worst impact from the increase, forcing a lot of small businesses to close their doors.
Is it time to say goodbye to the Palmer Wing and hello to the new west wing, or will the structure stand until this issue comes around again? The verdict will be in at 7 p.m. this evening, shortly after the polls close and the votes are tallied.