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The needs at the tech center are heightened by today's economy

By The Staff

The most recent Marion County Public Schools' district facilities plan identified Calvary and Lebanon elementary schools, Marion County High School and the Marion County Area Technology Center as the four buildings with the greatest need for construction and renovation.

Of those four, the Marion County Board of Education frequently spoke about Calvary Elementary and the tech center as the two top priorities.

Last week, the school board was forced to make a decision it hoped it wouldn't have to make - deciding which one, and only one, of those projects it will pursue next.

Sincere efforts to gain additional funding from the General Assembly and local taxpayers were unsuccessful. As a result, the school board is looking at having $5.7 million in bonding potential to address either a $6.22 million project (Calvary) or a $7.1 million project (the tech center).

And those price tags for both projects will only grow larger in the time it takes to get bids to complete them.

Local leaders have made a strong push for the school board to make the tech center the first project, and the school board affirmed that they would do just that last week.

County officials have endorsed the idea of creating a committee to examine how to address the needs at the tech center. Marion County Economic Development Director Tom Lund, Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw and the Marion County Industrial Foundation have all expressed support for the tech center project.

It's our view that the school board made the right decision.

It may not be good news to the parents of students at Calvary Elementary School, but fixing up the tech center will have the most immediate impact on the community.

We've been hearing for years that local industry needs more skilled workers, and the tech center offers the most obvious opportunity to train those workers. An updated facility will allow greater instruction on the use of robotics, which is becoming increasingly important in manufacturing.

Likewise, given the condition of the economy, it's in the best interest of the community to have a  population that's ready to work when new factories open their doors.

That won't lessen the needs at Calvary Elementary, or Lebanon Elementary or the high school, for that matter. We hope that the combined efforts to complete the tech center project will open the doors to other potential sources for the other needed improvements within the school district.

We can't see the future, but it does appear that working on a project that has clear economic ties is in the best interest of the entire community, especially against the backdrop of current economic conditions, locally, nationally and globally.

We urge local officials to begin their collaborative efforts as soon as possible. As we all know, time is money, and money is something that's hard to come by nowadays.