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Letters to the editor April 28

| April 28, 2024 12:00 AM

Students for the levies

As our community members know, the time to vote on levies for our school district has come.

I am imploring you to vote yes.

As a sophomore at Columbia Falls High School, I have no vote, but you do. There are three levies appearing on your ballots: one for our disintegrating roof and two for additional operating funding.

Last fall, our roof was temporarily shored up as an emergency measure. We are nearing the end of the school year, and still we are operating under rusting beams and exposed wiring. Simply put, still we lack a safe place to go to school. 

We pride ourselves on progress, yet our high school has moved backward; it’s far less safe for me to attend CFHS than it was for my father over 30 years ago. This cannot continue for another year. Should the levy fail, we will likely be forced to evacuate classrooms under the crumbling roof and return to partial remote learning. This brings me to my next point.

A recent editorial published by the Daily Inter Lake highlighted that during the 2021/22 school year, CFHS hit a new low for student proficiency rates in math, reading and science. Not emphasized was that these statistics were taken from a school struggling with effects of Covid-19 and the difficulties and consequences of remote learning. Returning to that system creates an unproductive cycle, leaving hundreds of students lacking an adequate education.

While it may be easy to ignore the plights of our school when they do not directly affect you, I ask you to think differently. We are the next generation, and the coming leaders in our valley. For the good of our community now and in the future, we ask you to support our education and vote yes.

— Eleanor Smiley, Columbia Falls

Straw man argument

I would love to know the source that was used in Judy Territo’s letter in the Daily Inter Lake on April 23 regarding failure rates in science, math and reading at Columbia Falls High School. Even if the numbers were correct (and I very strongly suspect they’re not), Judy’s point is a straw man fallacy — an argument against the levy because of failure rates has absolutely nothing to do with a rusted roof that is in desperate need of repair. 

But I’ll play along with the straw man and ask - how can we tend to the educational needs of students and boost their test scores if there’s not an actual building for them to learn in? And will a falling apart building do awesome things for retaining and attracting the best teachers for our kids?  

Vote yes to the Columbia Falls School District building reserve and operational levies.

— Matthew Bowser, Columbia Falls

Insurmountable odds

In response to Judy Territo — respectfully, Jill Rocksund is not the one asking you for money. The students at Columbia Falls High School are. 

These students are not failing their classes due to “mismanagement” of limited funds — of which you provided zero evidence. 

They are failing because many of them are helping to raise their siblings after school by either providing child care directly or working after school to help support them. They are failing because they live in “households” (I use the term loosely because many are living in campers, trailers, etc.) where parents fight at all hours of the night, fly into drunken rages that force them to spend the night laying awake fearful for their safety, then falling asleep in class during the day. 

They are failing because they do not get enough food at home, and due to the dismal funding for school lunch programming, they no longer have access to enough food at school to offset the lack at home. They are failing because Gov. Greg Gianforte turned down millions in federal funding for school lunch programming that would have alleviated the burden on local taxpayers and the district.

They are failing because their teachers are working through their prep periods to substitute for one another because there aren’t enough substitute teachers to go around, and so staff are being asked to give up the meager time they have to fill in. They are failing because their teachers are crumbling under the pressure, burning out and having to seek other jobs to afford to continue living in this community because we currently pay our educators lower salaries than any other state in the union. 

They are failing because there are not counselors and nurses on campus daily, due to those staff members having to do double duty on other campuses through the week. They are missing out on the one on one support they need and deserve. 

The bottom line is that they are not failing. We, their community, are failing them by not recognizing that they have no agency to change their circumstances. They are spending their days in hot, crowded classrooms, with teachers who are trying to give so much with so very little. They are incredibly resilient, and are doing their best to succeed in the face of insurmountable odds. 

Instead of spending time working against the school board and speaking against the sorely needed levy, you might consider using your time to substitute teach, work as a food services staff member, or any of the other 25 plus currently open jobs in the district that would actually help students to thrive instead of just survive. Or you could vote yes to put a safe roof over the student’s heads — not for the board, but for the future members of our community — who deserve that, at minimum.

— Leigh Clausen, Columbia Falls