Alpena school officials ask: ‘To be or not to be?’

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

That famous line of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is delivered by Hamlet as he contemplates whether living or dying is best.

One would hope the question of whether to pursue a bond request isn’t quite as dire for Alpena Public Schools officials as it was for Hamlet, but the complexity of the situation certainly must seem daunting.

On one hand, APS Superintendent John VanWagoner and the board are fresh off a defeated bond request in May. Voters left little doubt as to their dissatisfaction with the request.

On the other hand, district facilities have many needs and to ignore those needs would not only be foolish, it would be irresponsible. Thus, officials are considering a new request (a much more “lean and mean” request) to bring before voters in March 2020.

Already, the issue is generating lots of comment. Social media “experts” have more than enough thoughts they are willing to share. Letters to the editor are coming. The newspaper ran a story the day after this week’s board meeting with initial reactions from several folks and, this week after work, I have been stopped three times now by people wanting to share with me their reaction to the board’s consideration.

And, remember, APS officials as of today have not officially declared they are even going to pursue the bond. At this point, all the board has approved is submitting an application to the Michigan Department of Treasury that would allow them to pursue the question on the ballot, should they so decide it’s the prudent avenue to pursue.

Yet, how does anyone know what is prudent or not?

Certainly, most parents of students would be prone to support a bond request, especially the one now under consideration that would basically be a continuation of a 1996 request that expires in 2021.

The same support probably would come from grandparents and, perhaps, aunts and uncles.

But what about others?

What about the single mom of a toddler not yet in the school system who is working hard to just “make the ends meet” at the end of every month?

What about the family whose father just lost his job, or the widow who is trying to stretch her Social Security as far as she can?

And, sometimes, it is old history that continues to haunt the halls of APS schools. Sometimes, it is the decisions of past boards that frustrate citizens. Does anyone remember a roof at Thunder Bay Junior High School that needed repaired, even though it was basically still a new roof? You bet residents remember that fiasco and many still harbor resentment about it.

Even though that was then and this is now, some memories still cloud the picture through which the new APS board must try to navigate.

It isn’t fair, but, in many voters’ minds, it is hard to separate past problems — and, perhaps, mistakes — to current ones.

I know district officials are trying various means to get their pulse on the thinking of the community right now, and I believe that is wise.

I wish them much success, and I don’t envy them this decision.

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

What do you think?

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.


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