I've been dumbfounded by the Cape Girardeau Public School district's proposal for a $40 million bond issue. Actually, I am dumbfounded most of the time about most things, but this proposal has me extra dumbfounded.
One of the things that has dumbfounded me the most is the fact the district says it needs more space even though the school age population of Cape Girardeau has essentially stayed the same for the last 30 years.
I suppose this desire for more space is to be expected in the era of McMansions. You just can't have too much space. We're Americans and we like our space. The more space the better.
However, those McMansions are personal choices of their owners and I'm pretty sure are not directly funded with taxpayer monies whereas public schools are.
But then I got to thinking that maybe census demographics don't tell the whole story.
While the school age population of Cape is the same now as it was in 1980, perhaps today's students take up more square footage on average than they once did. That's a politically correct way to say that today's students might be fatter than kids were five or ten or thirty years ago.
According to the Centers for Disease Control that's actually been a trend for all American's, children included.
The average American 15 year old is about 10% heavier today than in 1960. Of course, that's the national average. Missourians have always been above average in chunkiness. We're the 12th fattest state and probably one of the few that consider cholesterol to be an essential part of the "food pyramid," so it's reasonable to expect that our children are above average in that regard.
It's quite possible that our town's kids might be over-achievers and be 20 or 30 or even 50 percent heavier than comparable children in 1960.
While it is hard to say for certain if our local schools are populated by a bunch of sumo- wannabees -- public schools report a lot of information, but the fatness of their charges does not appear to be one of them -- the local school system released a wonderful Master Plan this past September that had the following details regarding the current average square footage per student and per school:
Alma Schrader Elementary: 108 square feet per student
Blanchard Elementary: 136 sfps
Clippard Elementary: 119 sfps
Franklin Elementary: 191 sfps
Jefferson Elementary: 186 sfps
Central Middle School: 169 sfps
Central Junior High School: 355 sfps
Central High School: 175 sfps
In the Master Plan, they also estimate the number of square feet of a space needed per student and school type:
Elementary Schools: 100 to 110 square feet per student
Middle School: 120 to 150 sfps
Junior High School: 130 to 165 sfps
Senior High School: 160 to 200 sfps
This information further increased my dumbfoundedness. Based on this information from the local district's Master Plan, every school BUT TWO already exceeds the maximum estimated amount of square footage needed per student and the two that don't -- Alma Schrader Elementary and Central High School -- are comfortably within the estimated range for their particular type of school.
So what am I missing?
Is Cape currently experiencing a baby boom that will affect our public education in years to come? Or does the city of Cape plan to annex Jackson and double the size of our school district (Our new mascot, The Tigindian)? Or are we expecting to have an influx of illegal immigrants whose children will flood our schools?
Or is the district just not maximizing the space it already has to its fullest potential?
I guess the voters will get to decide this coming April.