Don’T Sell Frontier Without New Plan

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Let’s say you’re a bit short on cash to pay the electric bill. Would it make sense to chop up the front porch to have a nice fire? After all — where you gonna hang out when it warms up?

That’s why we suspect it doesn’t make much sense for the Payson Unified School District to sell Frontier Elementary School.

The school board this week voted to ask the Arizona School Facilities Board to tell the district whether selling Frontier would make it harder for the district to get money in the future to build a new school or expand the existing campuses.

That’s probably sensible. The School Facilities Board controls most school construction in the state in response to a court order that students have adequate facilities whether they live in rich neighborhoods or poor ones.

The school board has not decided what to do with Frontier Elementary School, which the district mothballed this year to save $300,000. The board has rightly decided to hold onto the school for now, waiting to see whether enrollment continues its worrisome decline.

However, we’re confident that as soon as the economy finally struggles back to its feet and the so fervently hoped for construction of a college campus here wins final approval, the district’s enrollment will start back up again.

Payson’s general plan envisions an eventual build-out population of 38,000. Moreover, Star Valley is finally grappling with the need for a water and sewer system that can support commercial development along the highway. The construction of the Blue Ridge pipeline in the next two years will make Rim Country one of the few regions in the Southwest with an assured, long-term water supply.

As a result, we suspect that in a few years, the Payson Unified School District will be scrambling to find space.

Perhaps in the long run it would make more sense to add to the existing campuses rather than to re-open Frontier. Clearly, the school board must insist on the development of a long-term plan before making any decisions on the fate of Frontier. But in the meantime, it makes no sense to take a crowbar to the front porch when all you need is to dig out a nice, thick sweater.

We must stand up to bullies

Payson Unified School District’s revision of policies designed to protect students from bullies and harassment once again underscores the complexity of the challenge.

Clearly, bullying and harassment remain a serious problem. National surveys suggest that perhaps 30 percent of middle and high school students encounter violence, intimidation, humiliation or harassment at school. Perhaps 5 percent of students face chronic threats, according to state surveys.

A rush of new ways for kids to communicate has compounded the problem. Cell phone texting, Facebook, tweets and social network sites have greatly extended the reach of bullies.

One gay student recently had the courage to directly address the Payson school board and recount the frequent taunts and confrontations that eventually prompted him to leave the district.

The official statistics gathered by the district’s school resource officer include only 16 reported instances of bullying or harassment at the high school and middle school last year. That’s probably only a fraction of the actual incidences of the behavior that makes school a painful place for far too many students.

The district’s updated policy on bullying and harassment looks like a welcome acknowledgement of the problem.

The district sent home a description of its tough anti-bullying policy the first week of school, together with an explanation of the right of every student to have a safe and supportive school environment.

The policy also requires every teacher and administrator to take action on every observed and reported incident. Of course, we cannot expect our teachers to somehow change human nature.

Teenagers test their power, test their limits and struggle for status. Teens need to find their way — and learn to deal with one another and find their place.

Moreover, studies have shown that knee-jerk, zero-tolerance policies that expel every kid who crosses the line often do more harm than good. Bullying often stems from the complexities of social status and structure. First, the district must ensure every child feels safe at school — but beyond that, we must make the bullies understand what they’re doing in hopes they’ll change.

So we’re happy the board adopted a clear policy this week that spells out the rights of students and the responsibilities of educators.

Because one thing’s clear: A bully won’t stop if no one stands up.

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