To The Editor:
I disagree with the school board’s decision to demolish the Baumer Auditorium. The auditorium is still a perfectly functional venue and, unfortunately, one of the only real assets we have to attract families to this district.
The board claims the decision stems from the damage sustained in last year’s fire as well as budget overruns and the age of the structure. But why tear it down entirely? Why was the proposal for a bond issue to fix the damage immediately shot down? The fire only damaged a small portion of the complex, and it was determined that the safety of the building will not have been compromised if the damage is simply fixed. And in my opinion, the budget problems are only an issue due to the principles of capacity and opportunity cost: we simply haven't been using the auditorium enough to justify its expenditures in the eyes of the board. Rather than tear the place down, we should just repair the existing damage and make a push to use the auditorium to its full potential.
I have talked to many folks who agree with me, including several teachers, but not many seem willing to fight the board’s decision, and I think I know why. I get it, the disappearances, the memories. The board claims that the missing kids have nothing to do with their decision to close the auditorium, but I think the community knows better. And that’s honestly one of the reasons I think the auditorium should be left standing. I know it has been six years, but many are still not satisfied with the investigation that was done. One of my friends is the aunt of one of the missing kids, and she wants to keep the auditorium because there could be more evidence to discover.
Many are still deeply frustrated with the Superintendent’s obstinance when it comes to looking into their concerns. By the way he reacted, you would think he thought five kids vanishing while backstage for a few minutes during a school musical was a normal occurrence. Granted, he was cooperative enough with the police investigation (not that he really had much of a choice), but during the lawsuit by the families, in my opinion he was borderline obstructing the judicial process, as if the auditorium was his own private property. I’ll never forget the disgusting editorial he wrote to this publication basically telling the families and the community that the case was cold and they needed to get over it.
And let's not forget that the disappearances during that play were not the only ones associated with the auditorium. Many probably don’t remember, but five years prior a high school student went missing from the parking lot after helping to set up for an event, and while the place was being renovated two years prior to that, there was an abduction in the adjacent housing development. All these things add up to at least a reasonable demand that more investigation be done.
But all this is perhaps somewhat beside the point. There is no need to get rid of the auditorium. The fire damage can be repaired, and while I understand the concerns about more disappearances, we need to remember that the auditorium may be our best hope for finding those kids. Ultimately, we need more transparency and accountability from the board.
Editor’s Note: Due to the sensitive and accusatory remarks in this letter, the Superintendent and members of the board were invited for commentary and rebuttal before this issue was printed, but they have declined.
Two paragraphs from the original submitted version of this piece have been redacted due to our policy against defamatory statements, hearsay concerning private conversations, etc.