Viewpoint: Get involved with your Ashland School District

Walker Elementary School has been using temporary quarters next to ScienceWorks Museum since the 2021-22 school year. Jim Coleman photo
March 6, 2023

Big decisions are being made about our children’s education, and it seems few of us are paying attention

By Gabriel Howe

It’s time for the Ashland community to reengage with its school district, which was once the pride of this little town I’ve lived in since 2008.

Let me offer some context. I have two children at Walker Elementary, which is the elementary school that serves Ashland’s lower-income, more transitory and racially diverse demographics. We all heard that a bond measure had passed and understood from connecting the dots that Walker School would be renovated. But the first time that we had any direct communication from the Ashland School District that our kids would be learning in a mobile compound for what is going on two years was Aug. 19, 2021, just days before our kids were scheduled to return to school.

August 19, 2021. That’s when the district’s current administration broke the news that our children would be at a different school than the previous spring. What a breach of trust with Walker families.

Time marched on. Our kids and their teachers have been doing the best they can to teach and learn in what is a substandard environment. They have been playing in a schoolyard with no playground equipment or athletic fields. There’s not enough space to break out small groups. And the teachers have been doing a tremendous job, always doing more with less, always sacrificing to provide for our kids.

But the administration has shared absolutely nothing with the Walker community about when we will be back on site. They refer us to a date in the construction contract, April 17, for “substantial completion,” but have not provided any definitive news about when our kids will return to the completed site. Nothing.

I have brought this to the attention of both the administration and the school board directors, but have been provided no further information as of yet. This is just one issue of many with our community school district. Enrollment continues to trend down.

Recent test scores show that less than half of ninth-graders are reading or doing math at or above grade level. And 26 percent of 10th graders are doing math at “three or more grade levels below,” according to winter testing data presented at the Feb. 13 board meeting.

All of this prompted me to start attending school board meetings, which I quickly learned have very little public involvement. At the Feb. 13 meeting, I was one of two parents present and the only person to make a public comment.

So, with that, I encourage every voter in Ashland to get involved with the school district and start participating in public school board meetings. The board holds its regular meetings the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. You have the right to participate. You can see the schedule on the district website.

Big decisions are being made about our kids’ education. If you’re a parent with kids in the district, you should do it for the future. If you don’t have children in your school district, you should do it because it’s your civic duty to participate.

Email Ashland resident Gabriel Howe at howegabe@gmail.com.

Update: The latest update from Ashland School District said, “If all goes as planned, we will be in our new beautiful building by mid-May.”

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