By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY – Staff Writer
The Lake Arrowhead Communities Republican Women Federated welcomed Bill Mellinger, president of the Rim of the World Unified School District board of trustees, on Tuesday, April 25, to speak about the Rim school district, its educational policy, the need for parent involvement and why they may need to seek a school bond next year.
Mellinger was originally scheduled to address the group on Feb. 28, but the blizzard prevented that talk and slightly changed its content as the schools have even more needs after the recent storms.
Mellinger shared important information about the school district, the closures from snow, the aging buildings, its responsibilities to the students, its facilities and how it and, especially the superintendent, stepped up to help during the recent snow disaster. Every school facility was used during the disaster in some ways – some as Red Cross shelters, others as food and supply distribution points. Much of the communication during the disaster was through the contact numbers from the schools.
The children were a major concern for the district during the snowstorms. Did the students have warm, safe living locations, enough food? Could they get outside their homes with that much snow and were their homes destroyed? After the snow stopped falling, were the roads safe enough for the students to get to the schools?
These major concerns are usually not the responsibility of a school district but, since Rim of the World Unified School District is considered a rural district without a city government to supervise these conditions, the district had to step up to fill in the gaps in services to get the residents what they needed and try to do so in real time. The district was able to fulfill some needs that otherwise would have not been available, added Mellinger.
He spoke on a variety of state-mandated programs and how the district must arrange its funds to get them taught in such a small district, as many mandated programs do not always come with enough funding to pay for the programs.
Mellinger addressed the leaking roofs in the aging Rim school buildings and the attempts to mitigate that situation and several other problems that had already arisen before this last storm, as well as additional repairs that need to be addressed as a result of the storm, with the current funding.
The students deserve a safe, dry and climate-controlled learning environment, Mellinger said. It is difficult to teach and learn in cold or over-heated, stuffy classrooms. Last year, temperatures inside the classrooms at Valley of Enchantment Elementary School were too hot for good education to take place, but the current electric power system is not strong enough to use air conditioners. Each school, since all were built more than 40 years ago, needs upgrades and repairs.
The Rim district is now investigating whether a school bond is possible. The question is, how much is reasonable with the economic hit the communities have recently suffered. They are now assessing the repairs that need to be made, with each site making lists of needed repairs, the best ways to approach those repairs and where the funding will come from. It is all still in the talking stage.
If anyone has suggestions, Mellinger suggested attending the school board meetings and helping solve the problems. The school board meetings are held each month at the Lake Gregory Educational Center, which is now also the district office.
The district consolidated its offices into that former school facility to save overhead costs and it sold their former district office building to raise money to fund some needed repairs and other expenses. It also hopes to sell other district-owned properties such as the Grandview school and the vacant property in Valley of Enchantment this next year to raise funding. The district does not currently have a school bond issued that the taxpayers are paying, which is quite unusual for any school district.
Also discussed during the meeting was the forward movement on the New California state concept. The organizers are following the roadmap that West Virginia used when forming their state when separating from Virginia. This New California concept is not a secession from the U.S., which is illegal, but the creation of a new state from within the borders of the current state, resulting in a New and Old California. Both states would have about equal populations and still be the sixth and eighth largest states in the union. They suggested looking up NewCaliforniaState.com and learning more about the issue.
The Republican Women meet once a month to keep current on legislative issues. Their next meeting will be held at the The Tudor House in Arrowhead Villas in May. For more information, see their website at www.lakearrowheadrwf.org, their Facebook page at Lake Arrowhead Communities Republican Women Federated or email them at [email protected] for additional details.