Monday, May 20, 2013
Service High Senior Speaks Out On School Bonds
The Municipality of Anchorage elections will have a host of candidates, a few school bonds and proposed district-wide projects.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTVA-CBS 11 News)
The Municipality of Anchorage elections will have a host of candidates, a few school bonds and proposed district-wide projects for residents to vote on.
Residents have voted down time and time again one project at Service High School which has turned into thirteen years of unfinished, but necessary, work. One determined student hopes to change public opinion with her words.
Despite not being able to vote in the April election or even reap the benefits of the school's renovation, 17-year-old senior Tessa Bay is still speaking out to convince voters to fix her school not only for students but for the community too.
It's the tale of two Service High Schools.
"These are the old lockers. You can see there has been graffiti and they rub it off and stuff," said Bay, as she gave a tour of the conditions of her school. "This is the newer stuff. As you can tell, it's a lot nicer...the lockers are a different color, really clean and nice."
For years the two sides of the high school have been incomplete.
"They started the project thirteen years ago," said Bay. "They started renovating the science hallway and it's still not done."
Less than half of 320,000 square feet of hallways, lockers, and equipment fell through because voters denied bonds continue the project.
"There is like weights missing out of here and these are all like broken and like this is all torn up," said Bay, showing the shredded parts of the gym and weight room. "A lot of the equipment is super, super old and like metal is rotted off and it's just really unusable and it's not safe to use anymore."
"These big high schools are very expensive to renovate and upgrade and I think it's a sticker shock situation," said Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau. "I don't think the vast majority of people realize how old Service is."
Which is why Tessa Bay is trying to change that by speaking up through a blog to get Service what the other Anchorage schools already have.
"Thirteen years is a little long to not finish a project," said Bay. "We are all here to be educated and I went into South a little while ago and it was like 'wow this is a really nice school' and ours is obviously not quite up to par. We are just asking for basic kind of resources that every school should have. It is kind of an issue of equality...other schools do have better resources than we do."
As Tessa raises awareness about the school's problems, city officials are trying to educate the public on the project's $68 million price tag.
"We have been maintaining the building, it just is old and tired and needs to be upgraded for 21st [century] learning," said Comeau.
Saying it benefits everyone through guaranteed state funds and debt reimbursement that whittles the amount the public pays to $20 million.
"That would be a real shame in my mind and we would have to come back [to] the voters to get that match and we just need to try to make the case to the community that Service's time has come and it's a really good investment."
An investment that when it comes to educating kids today and in the future both students and officials say is money well spent.
"We, as a older generation, are incumbent to take care of the needs of the students, just as our parents took care of our needs when it's our turn to go to school," said Assembly Member Dick Traini, representing Midtown Anchorage where Service is located.
"If you are investing that in your community not just in the students, which are really the future of our country, I can't think of a better way to invest your money."
The Proposition 1 Service High School bond package includes plans to build vocational-technical classrooms, a physical education area, a library, and an auditorium to accommodate 700 people. Right now it only seats around 200.
School officials say the renovation will benefit the community who would have access to the new facilities, a reason why Bay wrote the blog. Her intention was for residents to see what Service looks like through the eyes of a student that learns there every day.
You can read her blog here.