Who’s Watching the Kids?

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUE b    I grew up with three brothers and I believe the only real hard and fast goal of our parents was to make sure we didn’t hurt each other.  Every free moment from the time we could ride a bike we would scatter over blocks, or even miles, to go play, knowing only that we had to be home by dark.  In today’s culture we have to “watch” our kids.  If two parents catch a quiet moment, they often are startled from the quiet, back to reality, when one asks “Who’s watching the kids?”
    Most of you probably believe that when a major subdivision is built, a highly detailed and regulated school impact study is done to understand the stress that will be placed on the Central School System.  Actually, not.  Unanticipated school population growth would not be good for Central or our kids.  So, in the area of an expanding student population, I have to ask: Who’s watching the kids?
    The only requirement in Central’s zoning code for a “school impact study” states: “At the request of the Zoning Administrator, provide information on the student load and financial impact on the local schools and district(s), including expected scheduling of potential students.”
    First, the “study” is only required if the Zoning Administrator decides to request it.  Then, the only requirement is that the report “provide information” on student load and scheduling and financial impact.  There is no professionally formulated report with required metrics and calculations.  Who’s watching the kids?
    There is not even a requirement that the school impact study be done by a third party.  A developer could quite literally “Google” some school population and growth data from some other state and write a report telling Central that the development they want to build will not over-crowd Central’s schools even one little bit.  For example, the school impact study for the Shoe Creek TND with almost 700 residences was put together by an employee of the developer.
    For me, this approach to a school impact study is just not good enough.  Take a moment and look around Central.  We became a city for the sole purpose of creating a school district.  Families move to Central primarily for our good schools.  Businesses come to Central to sell stuff to all those people.  The school system is important to the Central community, yet the last time I heard, thirty of our elementary classes meet in temporary buildings and we are outgrowing the new school complex on Sullivan.
    In my opinion, school impact studies should be done by a professional third party.  That professional should be selected by the school system, not the city.  The school system should participate in developing the model by which the studies will be evaluated.  The final result of the study should be a recommended school impact fee for each new residence.
    This impact fee should be only enough to offset the actual additional financial burden the new housing will create for the school system.  Then, the school system should have a long-term facilities plan to turn this funding into classroom space to accommodate the growth.
    Is this a perfect solution?  No, but it’s a starting point for discussion.  Would this be easy?  No, but it needs to be done.  If it allows us to answer the question: “Who’s watching the kids?” With “Central is,” that would be Good News for a Great City.

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