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August 25, 2011 8:47 am

EDITORIAL: The importance of school

Written by Don Amend

January 1 may be called the beginning of the new year, but for a large part of Powell’s population, the year really began this week with the start of school.

For the next nine months, the lives of school kids and their families will revolve around what’s happening in the community’s schools. Even those who don’t have children in school might mark the dates of athletic contests, concerts or special programs at the local schools and at Northwest College, whether to remind themselves to attend or to make sure they don’t schedule an important meeting or event on the night when everybody wants to go watch the Powell-Cody football game or attend a big concert in the Nelson Auditorium.

Education is a big part of Powell’s economy. A study last spring found that just operating NWC brings approximately $17 million in economic activity into Park, Big Horn and Washakie counties, and the students themselves generate nearly $5 million in additional activity. Powell is certainly the biggest beneficiary of that activity.

The impact of Park County School District No. 1 on economic activity, particularly in this period of school construction, is even greater.

The most important impact of the schools, of course, is not what they do to entertain us or bolster our economy. Obviously, the most important role of the schools is educating the students who attend them.

Public schools always seem to be under fire for their failures, but a quick look at the world around you would tell you that, overall, the schools are doing a good job. Odds are that the doctor who treats your aches and pains, the banker who takes care of your money and helps finance your house, the businessman running a store you patronize, the farmer who feeds you and the lawyer who handles your legal needs all are most likely the products of American public schools. Every day, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics and truck drivers utilize skills built on a foundation they acquired in public schools and community colleges.

Of necessity, schools have changed tremendously over the years in response to changes in the job market and the advances in technology, changes that seem to be coming more and more rapidly in recent years.

Our society is continually changing, and, like most institutions, schools have difficulty keeping up with those changes. But Wyoming’s teachers, administrators and students been working hard to keep up, adapting to new standards, more testing and newer technology. The most visible effort in the Powell schools this year will be the project to integrate iPads into instruction.

Despite the changes, the objective of the schools and colleges will remain the same: Providing the foundation for learning and preparing students to continue a learning process that will last a lifetime.

That work is arguably the most important work our society does. We commend all who are part of that work — parents, faculty, staff, administrators, board members and supportive community members — and we wish you a successful and productive school year.

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