Our school year is off to a wonderful start.
Students are in their places (with the exception of a few temporarily confused kindergartners), teachers have made their plans and are already working our students hard, buses are following their schedules, on time for the most part.
Our enrollment is up slightly. If past history holds true, it will continue to increase until Labor Day.
Some students newly arrived in Payson don't know we started on July 26.
On another note, how did the PUSD buildings get into such sad shape?
This is a question heard often by the bond committee as they go around the community talking about the bond.
Many of our buildings are old. The rock building at Julia Randall Elementary was built in 1935.
The average age of buildings in the district is 22 years. But, buildings, when carefully maintained, can last far longer than 22 years.
Why was our maintenance not better?
The final answer: Money.
I know you have heard that Arizona schools are at the bottom of the list for per pupil funding. Arizona, at $5,033 per student, ranks 48th in funding in 50 states, just above Mississippi and Utah. But our Arizona schools must pay for all the same things that schools in #1 ranked New Jersey ($10,283 per student) must pay for.
We need teachers, classrooms, materials, buses and bus drivers too. Our money must be spread thinner.
Governing Boards over the years have grappled with this problem. Each year, the principals submit lists of the things that absolutely must be done on their campus to keep the campus safe for students and adults.
Each year, there is a shortfall between these necessities and the amount of money we are allocated.
Principals and the Governing Board must prioritize.
Which repairs are most important? Never do they have enough money to fix everything that needs fixing.
And these lists the principals make are not for luxuries.
They are for necessities -- roofs that leak, plumbing that must be fixed, sidewalks that are unsafe.
How did it happen that our facilities are run down?
The legislature happened.
They did not appropriate adequate money to allow the Payson Unified School District Governing Boards to maintain the existing facilities.
As the years pass, and neglect driven by the lack of money continues, the buildings suffer. It's just like our own homes. When we defer maintenance to address a different need, at some point we must play catch up.
Remember, I want to hear from you. E-mail Smyers@pusd.com.