Salem-Keizer School District’s Long Range Facilities Planning Task Force held its final meeting last month and some decisions have to be made.

The school board will have to decide if it will pursue a bond that pays for all the projects identified. That could be up to $550 million and it would not include any new schools. Under the task force’s work, Keizer families can be confident that the city will remain a one-high school town. But issues of crowding desparately need to be addressed at McNary High School and other district schools.

McNary and other schools use portable classrooms to ease crowding in the brick and mortar buildings. The use of portable units has been in practice around the country for decades, it’s an inexpensive solution that does not address long-range crowding problems.

Overcrowded schools is a quality of education issue. STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education suffers because labs are crowded and students don’t get as much time on those subjects as they should.  Much attention is aimed at STEM because those subjects are the first rungs in the ladder to a collegiate education in fields that are important to the economy the U.S. is morphing into. Attention needs to be paid to all areas of high school education including the elective classes that make school palatable for many students.

It is a fact that more students will be attending Keizer and Salem schools in the coming years. There is a social obligation to assure that our children have adequate space to do their learning. If it costs the school district $500 million to assure a quality education, then it must move forward.

Addressing seismic and overcrowding issues piecemeal should not be an option; the school district and the school board have a duty to its students to fix and expand capacity at schools as soon as possible. Discussions by the task force, the district administration or the school board are not trivial—this is an important issue that should be tackled head on and at full tilt. We support moving forward with a whole package to complete upgrades and expand capacity to present to voters.

Children are our greatest natural resource and we should not skimp when it comes to assuring that they grow into educated and engaged members of society. That’s society’s obligation.   —LAZ