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Technology: A students' perspective

February 16, 2011 - Rawley Van Fossen plans to vote in the Feb. 22 school bond election, and unequivocally says he'll vote "yes."

"When I meet people who say "no," I want to say 'Come to my yearbook class,'" said the 18-year-old Lake Orion High School senior. "'Sit down and try to log onto my computer.'"

According to Van Fossen, just getting the computers up and going every day is a chore, and doesn't account for outdated software and programs that shut down at random.

He and fellow yearbook staffers are documenting first-ever state football championships and other milestones from the 2010-2011 school year, after all. Voice recorders to take on interviews would be nice. A lot of things would be nice.

"By not keeping up in the 21st century we can't really do anything up to our potential," said Van Fossen. "We're almost being held back by the district and the community if we don't pass this bond."

At a recent meeting of the local republican club, Van Fossen said he was interested to hear from people who planned to vote "no" on the ballot question that would mean $25.3 million for Lake Orion Community Schools.

The bulk of those funds – $14.1 million – are slated for technology, with $3.1 million allocated for busses, $2.9 million for building refurbishment, and $2.6 million for safety/security measures. The last $2.8 would get sucked up by bond issuance costs, construction manager pay and architect and technology designer fees.

If it passes, the bond will be issued in two series: Series A, to the tune of $9,625,000 for 18 years at 1.01 percent, and Series B, $15,905,000 for 10 years at four percent, with a 1.6 mil increase.

"A lot of people are against it because it's a new tax and people in the community don't really understand what it's about," said Van Fossen. "They look at just the tax increase. They didn't have (schools equipped with modern technology), and they look at it like 'If we went through and did OK with out it, so can they.'"

Junior Layne Murphy, 17, said she's heard the same thing, and thinks the argument is weak. It's a different world.

At 17, she can't vote – but would vote "yes" if she could.

"It's frustrating," she said. "I know I'm more of an informed voter than a lot of people out there."

Murphy said she often emails school documents to herself so she can work at home, where the technology – in the form of her mom's laptop – is much more current, and, hence, faster.

"The laptops (at school) are a joke," she said. "They're awful. Every time we try to use the computers, it takes forever, like half the class period, and by the time I finally log on, I have maybe 20 minutes to do my work."

Rebecca Ryan, editor-in-chief for the school yearbook, sees the same thing as Van Fossen and Murphy every day.

"On a regular basis our computers shut down and we have to redo the work," said Ryan, an 18-year-old LOHS senior, noting yearbook production involves a good deal of graphics and high-resolution images. "The printer we have can't handle all the information we're sending. It does work sometimes, but other times it will take up to an hour. A lot of times we're trying to edit on deadline and it takes an entire class period just to get our pages printed.

"With such an amazing school like Lake Orion, we want to keep getting better. If the bond doesn't pass, we'll have a little bit of a disadvantage over other schools."

But even if the bond issue does get voter approval next Tuesday, neither Van Fossen or Ryan will see much, if any, of what $25 million can buy.

But as graduation approaches, Van Fossen, who started at Lake Orion Community Schools some 13 years ago as a kindergartener, knows one thing for sure.

"There's no other public school in the state of Michigan that I'd rather attend," he said. "The Lake Orion message is 'We strive for excellence.' We're known for it in sports, academics – we have really good teachers and I've been able to take a lot of AP classes. I've had a lot of really good opportunities here."

And that excellence, he said, is something he wants to maintain for classmates coming up behind him.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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