In 1951, a group of farmers and ranchers in Pilot Rock gathered together to build an elementary school. It was such a unique effort, they even recorded the project on film. The construction project was also symbolic of how much they valued education in their community.
They did a great job, but now, almost 60 years later, the elementary school, along with the high school and middle school, are in dire need of attention.
It's not likely in this day and age that a group like that would be able to take on and get approval to provide a capital project of this magnitude. However, nothing prevents a community from stepping forth to support a bond issue to provide for necessary renovations.
And that's precisely what school officials, the school board, and a group of Pilot Rock supporters hope will happen on Nov. 4 when a $3.42 million bond issue comes before the voters.
The bond issue for Pilot Rock's schools brings both the community and its citizens to an interesting crossroads. Do we step forward and take the steps necessary to assure that our school system remains viable or do we turn our backs on buildings that were built as long ago as 1919?
The bond issue being proposed in Pilot Rock isn't particularly glitzy.
Most of the funds will go to replacing an aging heating system that belongs in a museum somewhere. Not only is it a relic, it's inefficient, partly inoperable and undependable.
In an earlier bond issue which was presented to voters, the district was proposing a more modest fix that might have worked for 10 or 12 years. Since then, extensive community meetings have been held and the message has been "Don't propose a short-term solution. Fix it once and for all so it will last as long as the buildings." This time, the bond issue includes heat pumps and an expectation that they will be dependable for three or four decades.
Another chunk would be directed toward updating the electrical system, which was installed long before the age of technology. Pilot Rock students, like those around the country, are being prepared to compete in a global society. Board members point with pride to the fact that more than 70 percent of graduates last year went on to higher education. The district needs the capacity to provide the learning tools these students need to become successful.
Other portions of the bond issue address roofing needs, updating the science rooms, and monies for modernizing the elementary gymnasium and junior high cafeteria.
As we said, it's not glitzy. It's about good stewardship of district facilities and providing an adequate learning environment for the children of the community.
As it now stands, Pilot Rock has no school bonds on its books. Two years ago, the last of the bonds were paid off. The proposed bond issue simply essentially replaces that tax obligation.
The schools in Pilot Rock are like the glue that holds the community together. Take that glue away and the community begins to dissolve like so many other smaller towns whose economic base has faded.
Despite the loss of several large sources of employment, the community has demonstrated a will to survive. A number of families have gravitated toward the community because of affordable housing, the sense of community, the individual attention accorded to students and the opportunities to participate that a small district offers its students.
The bond issue before voters on Nov. 4 doesn't belong to either the school administration or the school board - it's the product of a comprehensive survey of community members regarding their schools and their priorities.
It's also about providing Pilot Rock voters with an opportunity to do their part in assuring that the schools continue to be the core of the community.