Letter from the Editor

Monday, August 30, 2004

A textbook example of the cutting edge

Whether or not Storm Lake people have a direct personal tie to the university or any of its students, I do hope they all will take advantage of the tours of the new Estelle Siebens Science Center on September 17.

Though I've had the chance to prowl the building many times during its construction, it still amazes me with its scope and grandeur. More important than all the award-winning architectural features, it is the most purposeful educational facility I've ever seen - not classrooms fit into a rectangular building, but a whole structure designed in every aspect to enable learning and stir excitement. It doesn't just house technology, it is technology. It is full of life and wonder.

It is an example in many ways.

In funding - with a combination of major donor money with a challenge for the university to raise the other half itself, from many, many sources.

In multi-purposes - designed to bring in area school children and the public to see the science of education taking place, and inspire us all to dream as well as to tackle practical issues such as local water quality and prairie preservation.

In practicality. There is a great shortage of leading young minds for the future of science, math, medicine and the teaching of these disciplines. BVU's facilities will put it at the forefront in attracting and retaining the people who will lead in those fields in years to come.

In flexibility. Classes can change form and format at will to suit future needs. The flexibility for change is so pervasive that it will be as vital generations from now as it is today.

Take a good, good look, Storm Lake.

Because not only should we be proud of this grand showplace of education, we should learn from it.

Because now it will be time to turn our attention to the next great need in Storm Lake education.

Our university campus has been literally transformed in less than a decade under President Fred Moore. The new AEA/Iowa Central Community College/Extension building has rounded out our vocational education facilities. A new middle school, once so controversial, has been a treasure. An alternative high school has answered a need, and an impressive day care and early childhood structure for Gingerbread has answered another.

The elementary school system has patiently waited its turn. It is time to begin serious preparation for the central elementary school that will be needed within a few years to replace scattered and nearly outmoded old buildings that were not designed for young children. We owe it to the children, the families, and the teachers to give them a quality learning environment, too.

I'm not saying that the school should rival BVU's Science Center is spending or grand designs, nor that a building could ever match the importance of great educators in the learning process.

But our inevitable effort for an elementary school to unite the town can take some lessons in appeal, openness, flexibility, community inclusion, technological adaptation, energy efficiency and creative financing from the new building we will dedicate next month.

The BVU Science Center is a great example of Storm Lake moving forward as the leading community of northwest Iowa. Considered with the Women's Center, proposed Project AWAYSIS destination park, dredging project, Census gains and other elements, it is a huge step.

But it isn't a final one by any means. It is fine to have powerful, modern facilities for our university to educate young man and women, but we need equally effective resources to begin that long process of lifelong education for those about a dozen years younger.

Buena Vista Jail Task Force - I feel for the neighbors and the Planning and Zoning officials who have felt moved to oppose the location of a county jail in the former Concordia building. (Perhaps, with the sheriff's office and other elements included, the project should even be referred to as the "BV County Law Enforcement Center" instead of the dismal term "jail."

It isn't a perfect solution, by based on all we have seen to date, it is probably the best available to us today.

Something needs to be done about the jail conditions, and it will need to be an affordable solution in order to pass muster with the voters.

It is easy to say all that when I'm not the one who has to live next to the place, of course.

But I do hope Storm Lake city officials and residents will take a second look at the plan and the schematics that should soon be available. It does not seem unreasonable, and deserves a little more consideration, I think.