Support fair programs for all school children

Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 11:57 p.m.

I am usually in full agreement with Ron Cunningham, so I was very disappointed with his column (Dec. 22) "Time to turn the buses around?"

Those of us who exercised our civic rights and responsibilities during last year's rezoning hearings do not recognize the "strategic retreat" that Cunningham speaks of. Rather, we applauded the School Board members because in their final wisdom, they decided that we simply did not have enough information or resources to properly execute an ill-conceived plan.

Most disturbing, however, is Cunningham's perpetuation of a misunderstanding. When the voters of our state decided last month to reduce class sizes, they voted not for equalizing the school populations but to cap classes at absolute numbers.

It is quite possible that the "artificially small class sizes" in East Gainesville to which Cunningham refers will be the standard. Those classes are already in compliance with the amendment. Busing students to those schools will not work unless the plan is to build more classrooms in those schools to maintain the proscribed class sizes.

Some legislators have announced an effort to "amend the amendment" to recognize average class size, but this is outside the spirit of the amendment. At this time, we must proceed as dictated by our constitution.

Cunningham wields a great deal of influence in this community and usually has a good pulse on the politics of our area. However, in this case he is not only perpetuating this misunderstanding that we can simply equalize the class sizes, he is inferring that we do not need new schools in West Gainesville. This is especially frightening since building continues to be rampant in the west.

The east schools are already ahead of the game when it comes to class size. Now let's give the west schools the same opportunities. New schools must be built where construction has been out of control for the last two decades. The School Board should consider converting at least one eastside elementary school to a model magnet program, drawing hundreds of children from all corners of the county.

Moratoriums must be passed to limit new housing unless the schools can support the new populations. City and county agencies must work together with our School Board to come up with innovative, constructive, logical and fair solutions for all students in this county.

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