Guest opinion: Good school buildings boost learning and home values
November 1, 2015
During the last two months, the Roaring Fork School District has hosted multiple information sessions and attended numerous meetings to communicate with our stakeholders in hopes of voters having the information they need to make an informed choice regarding Ballot Initiative 3B, the school bond issue.
I would like to address the questions that have been asked regarding how the physical environment in a school impacts learning and why someone would want to vote for a bond issue even if they don't have children or whose children are already grown. A simple answer is that strong schools build strong communities. The physical condition of schools not only contributes to creating effective conditions for learning, but also increases the quality of your community and property value.
There have been many studies conducted reinforcing the fact that good facilities are an important condition for student learning. A growing body of research has linked increased student achievement and improved student behavior to the physical conditions in a school. Decaying environmental conditions such as crumbling plaster, inadequate toilets, poor lighting, inadequate ventilation and outdated heating/cooling systems can definitely affect learning, as well as the morale of students and staff. In addition, overcrowding creates a host of other issues that negatively impact the school experience for all students.
These studies, all of which controlled for variables such as socioeconomic status, showed that students' standardized achievement scores were lower in schools with poor or inadequate building conditions. Students in school buildings that exhibited declining condition had achievement that was 6 percent below schools in fair condition and 11 percent below schools in excellent condition.
With regard to home values, researchers from Duke University and others found that consumers choose a community based on their preference patterns for local public goods, including schools, parks and other amenities. Individuals are willing to pay higher housing prices to move to communities with desirable schools. Other studies conclude that proximity to and quality of a school affects housing prices. For instance, houses within a half-mile of a school have prices 18 percent higher than those located more than 2 miles from a school.
Each of the studies clearly shows that the quality of schools has a positive impact on the prices of houses located within that school attendance zone. This finding is not only important to homeowners and parents, but also to economists and policy makers. Improving schools can be a method for improving neighborhoods and stimulating economic growth.
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Eliminating overcrowding in Glenwood Schools with the addition of the new school at Eastbank, improving learning environments at Glenwood Springs Elementary and all three of our middle schools, and addressing other infrastructure needs will positively impact the environment for learning and increase your property values.
Diana Sirko is superintendent of the Roaring Fork School District.