Five years ago, my family had to choose between moving to Hays or Wichita. Before deciding, we took time to visit the elementary and high schools in both communities that our kids would likely attend. When Mike Hester, then Hays High principal, found out we were moving in from out of town, he took an hour to proudly walk us through his school. His welcoming reception, and those of the dedicated teachers we met, is what made us choose Hays.
The quality of schools is often a top priority for young families considering a move to a new community. Schools are what young families see first, and while Hays’ teachers and administrators in ours are excellent, the physical facilities are not.
The problem isn’t that the district hasn’t maintained our buildings well — on the surface, they are clean, polished and graffiti-free. The problem is our schools don’t come close to meeting today’s standards of safety, security, handicap accessibility or instructional space. Elementary schools have enrollments which exceed rated capacity, and the middle school has serious space utilization issues. They were fine for the day they were built, but are outmoded by 2017 standards. Worse, most have plumbing, heating/cooling and electrical problems common in buildings 60 to 85 years old.
To continue attracting new professionals to Hays, we must offer modern schools capable of educating a competitive 21st century workforce. This $78.5 million bond, crafted by taxpayers, parents, teachers and administrators (many of whom have written letters to the editor describing current shortcomings) achieves this. Hays hasn’t passed a school construction bond in over 35 years. With further delays, we will only pay more to get less, as interest rates return to historical norms.
Hays is a wonderful community that has warmly embraced our family, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to help make Hays better for future generations of families. I’m hopeful you’ll join me in voting “Yes” for Hays and our schools on Nov. 7.