Schools shouldn't be just for kids

When I pulled up in front of Westport Central School on Dec. 1 to attend the Future of Westport meeting, it struck me how the school had opened its doors to a community event, something not often seen in this area anymore, unfortunately.

To be sure, there are several legitimate reasons why many schools shy away from allowing non-student groups from using their facilities, insurance considerations being one of the biggest. Still, every school is heavily funded by local taxpayers, and there are many logical reasons to allow community members to utilize it after the school day is done.

Though many of our school-communities in this area are small and far from being affluent, they have invested a great deal to see that schools are well maintained and equipped to give students a quality education. As a result, many schools have excellent facilities which would be perfect to use for adults as well as students. Whether it's allowing the use of a library or auditorium as a meeting space or opening a gymnasium for family recreation, schools can offer specialized spaces that are otherwise not found in this sparsely populated county.

Take AuSable Valley Central School for example. For years the school has willingly opened its swimming pool at a nominal cost to people living nearby. Such indoor swimming facilities are rare here, especially outside of a school, and to provide such an opportunity to both adults and young people is invaluable.

If I had to guess, I'd say that with the cost of lifeguards, insurance, and other expenses, to open the pool probably results in a net loss for the school, but I imagine that the overhead costs are minimal since it's more efficient to keep the pool heated either way.

There are other good examples as well, such as Keene Central School hosting the Keene Idol contest and Pleasant Valley Chorale concerts, Willsboro Central School hosting screenings by the Champlain Valley Film Society, or Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School hosting Social Center musicals, but there's always more that can be done.

With so few good venues for adult recreation, large community meetings, or art and music performances in this area, it's crucial that our schools keep their doors open to events and activities that don't necessarily involve students. Likewise, it's important that people in the community continue to demand such activities. Let's put our school buildings and our property tax dollars to good use.

Matt Bosley is the editor for the Valley News and Tri-Lakes Today newspapers. He can be reached at 873-6368 x216 or matt@denpubs.com.

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