Schools should not be in business of community centers

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In the last year, Sheridan County School Districts 1 and 2 have each considered the possibility of funding community center’s for students and residents of all ages.

Early in 2013, SCSD1 representatives submitted plans to the county for a community center near Big Horn. They pitched the project as a location for activities, classrooms and office space — a place for kids to go after school and for community events to be held. They requested a conditional use permit from the county and were denied.

Early this year, it was made public that SCSD2 has been considering a large, multi-purpose recreational facility. They’ve held meetings with local interest groups to gather support and have been in discussions about the proposed facility for more than two years. SCSD2 officials have said they hope it will be a place for student athletes to practice, a draw for regional sporting events and a community place of recreation and gathering. It could host expos and conventions, too, they have said.

Since when it is our school districts’ responsibility to provide community centers? Our school systems and their administrators should be focused on academics, not recreation.

It is true, according to some studies, that children involved in extra-curricular activities have higher academic success rates. It is said they have better self-esteem, social skills and time management abilities. It gives them an outlet for energy and provides a safe place for after-school activities.

SCSD2’s budget summary for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, indicates a budget of at least $725,000 annually for activities at all grade levels. The SCSD1 budget indicates $641,483 set aside this fiscal year for the district’s student activities and related transportation. SCSD3 has budgetted $176,000 this year on extra-curricular activities and related transportation. That is a combined more than $1.5 million annually spent on extra-curricular activities for students in Sheridan County school districts.

These programs are fantastic and they serve an important purpose, but our school districts should not be investing any additional money in providing community centers for area residents. Existing nonprofits can fulfill those needs.

The Tongue River Valley Community Center in Dayton and Ranchester provides programming for residents of all ages, supported in part by the SCSD1 Recreation District funding. While Big Horn does not have a community center, if one were to form, it should be done by a similar grassroots, nonprofit effort of concerned citizens not by primary SCSD1 funds.

In Sheridan, the YMCA, Senior Center, K-Life and other nonprofit organizations provide spaces for community events and activities. In addition, countless for-profit businesses exist to provide activity and fitness space to community members.

Each school in SCSD2 and SCSD1 is within 10 miles of one of these nonprofit, community-oriented facilities. We do not need more of these organizations. We need to work to support the organizations already in place, which are experienced in providing the kinds and variety of activities this community needs.


By |March 19th, 2014|

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