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Has the time come to upgrade schools?

Survey will gauge residents' opinions

Oct. 12, 2010

Franklin — School officials readily admit that some Franklin Public School District facilities are aging, and, in some corners of the community, residents are not shy about sharing their opinions about the need for new ones.

The question is how the district should proceed, given that the economy is still making times tough for many families.

Franklin will begin looking for answers through a survey that will be mailed to all district residents Friday, presenting a series of facilities options.

From middle to high grounds

For the middle school, the district will ask residents if the district should renovate and expand the current building or construct a new one. Another option would be building a new high school and renovating the current high school into a middle school.

Residents will be asked a series of questions about upgrades at the high school relating to the swimming pool, auditorium, indoor and outdoor physical education and athletic spaces, and a possible new community center.

Question also address whether the district should build a new high school or renovate the existing one, what the priority for facilities should be and how much money the community would be willing to spend.

A question of dollars, too

Answers to the latter question could be particularly intriguing. Many have complained about the state of Franklin High School's athletic facilities, for example, but others have opposed any property tax levy increase, saying residents can't afford it due to the economy.

"You are running a business with our dollars, and we are concerned about how you are spending them," resident Donald Reed told the School Board during the district's annual meeting in August.

"None of the above" is an option for any building proposal.

Keeping balancing

"Our challenge is to balance the needs of our students with the priorities of our taxpayers, particularly in light of the current economy," the opening letter on the survey states. "Despite the recession, our student population continues to increase at a gradual rate. Our schools continue to age. Academic programs and technology needs continue to evolve."

Sixteen-year resident Patt Slater is among those who say now is the time for the community to do something about its buildings, or risk falling behind its neighbors.

"We really need more to our community besides homes and condos," Slater said. "The young adults that have graduated from Franklin High School in the last few years still can't believe it looks the same, (with) no changes yet for their siblings.

"I hope for Franklin that they pick up the pace, and move forward with a plan and continue to apply it."

Importance of feedback

Residents will have until Oct. 29 to give their feedback, either online or by sending back the paper survey. The findings will be presented at the Nov. 17 School Board meeting.

The results will dictate what steps school officials take next, Communication Specialist Deb Osborn said. For example, the district would not want to proceed on building projects if it knew the community would not support them, she said.

This survey comes after one sent earlier this year quizzed residents on issues facing the district. Those results indicated residents were concerned about the state of district facilities, with some calling them "embarrassing," so it prompted a second survey specifically on the middle school and high school.

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