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SPOTLIGHT
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Answer the bell

Published on -8/15/2014, 8:58 AM

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There's always that friendly reminder when you walk into Walmart SuperCenter in Hays when the approaching school year is just around the corner.

It's hard to miss the stands of neatly organized paper divided by schools and towns.

Yes, those classroom supply lists can come in handy for everyone with a child heading back to the desks.

From crayons to colored pencils, from glue sticks to scissors, from rulers to notebooks, the lists can mean a chunk of change for parents.

But what happens when students don't come completely stocked, at least according to those lists? Are they sent back to the store for supplies, or do teachers and students help account for what was missing?

Most of us know what the answer is to that question. But what if in those neatly organized boxes there was a school list for Hays USD 489? Would the district's list of supplies be up to par and adequate -- and properly fulfilled?

Here's a few things that might be missing: An increased local-option budget, additional teachers, more nurses and counselors, larger classrooms, better facilities. The list well could pass the length of any school supply requirements for students.

The LOB was voted down not long ago by an overwhelming margin. Who could blame voters for not getting behind the idea of higher taxes at any point, let alone when the BOE had not too long before decided to cut staff to make up for an estimated $1.3 million deficit?

The majority of those cuts came from reduction in force, meaning several teachers lost positions in the district. On the upside, some have been hired back.

The physical size of classrooms will not be changing anytime soon, and they will seem smaller in some cases where teachers have been cut and sections closed.

Several schools have cited security issues and secure entrances, and it's a fact some structures in the district are crumbling -- some way too fast.

It isn't a small list the BOE and administration doesn't have the funding to deal with. Instead, higher enrollment prices and a first-time, full-time kindergarten fee were implemented to help offset some of the deficit.

Will BOE members be sent home to find the supplies by voters fed up with recent antics? Only school board elections will tell the full story.

For now, it's time to turn the page and answer that first school bell as it rings. That's the message BOE President James Leiker told hundreds of teachers gathered at Wednesday's welcome-back event at Hays High School.

"We're the best. We're not average," Leiker said. "Let's just go out there and get it done. Let's go out and change some people's lives. Make it better for the kids."

While Leiker is a candidate for a state seat in the House of Representatives come November, we think his words reflect more than just a token political spiel.

It's time to do what people in western Kansas do best, and that's lace up the shoes and get to work, to lead by example and look out for everyone else.

We've been critical of recent BOE decisions in the past, and we will continue to do so when merited. Now, though, the school year officially has started. Money will be tight. Opinions will fly.

But it's time to look for the best way to educate students in USD 489.

It's time everyone -- BOE members, administration, teachers, parents, supporters and naysayers -- remember what's important.

It will take patience, volunteers, donations, fundraisers and hard work. But we're confident we live in a city where people will continue to answer the ringing of the school bell in whatever way possible. That's what the community has done for years.

We ask that the list of items the people of Hays can help out with not go unchecked for 2014-15.

Editorial by Nick Schwien

nschwien@dailynews.net

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