WMS students learn about cost of running city

Weiser Middle School computer teacher Courtney Thompson, at podium, explains her seventh and eighth grade class project, which gives her students an idea of what it is like to initiate a possible city project. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
Most kids have no idea what is involved in running a city and what it takes to get specific projects in town accomplished.
 Students in Courtney Thompson’s Weiser Middle School computer classes, however, have been working on an Exploratory Computer project aimed at giving them a first-hand look at the many components involved.
 They used their computer skills for research and typing letters proposing specific projects in the city.
 On Monday, Nov. 13, Thompson and her students attended a regularly scheduled city council meeting where she laid out the scope of the project.
 “I have 48 students in these two classes,” she explained. “As my students have been learning computers, we are learning the Oreo method of writing a letter in terms of positive news/negative news/positive news, which goes against how you eat an Oreo. Usually you eat the middle first, right?”
 The students have learned all about opening a letter with a greeting or introduction.
 “They start with how their idea is fantastic and then we go to the middle paragraph where we get into the sting of a project and so we do research and figure out what the project is going to cost us, how are we going to justify it, etc.,” Thompson said. “Then we close with why this is the best idea in the whole wide world and why the city council would say yes to it.”
 She did the project two years ago with different students whose ideas for city improvements included building a skate park, a splash pad, and bleachers at the pool. Students’ ideas this year, she said, seemed more pragmatic in nature.
 “These guys are very serious and their projects were roads; ‘we want our roads and sidewalks fixed,’ so it’s just kind of interesting to see that shift between thought processes,” Thompson said. “Everybody gets to make a suggestion … and then their group gets to veto one of those suggestions until we narrow it down. They have to do the research. This is still computer skills; all of this is typing skills, figuring out how to put it into a letter and what that looks like.”
 Students were tasked with determining how their projects were going to be funded.
 “So, then we have a conversation about how many properties are in Weiser and what does that tax look like and that monies are budgeted for your town already, so how are we going to ask the taxpayers?” 
 “So, it’s kind of a letter-writing and civic-minded project all at the same time.”
 The students’ letters were reviewed by Mayor Randy Hibberd and city council members who were amazed with what they read.
 “I want to say that I was impressed by how you put things together, the research you had done, how close you came to putting it realistically,” Mayor Hibberd told the students present at the Nov. 13 city council meeting. 
 “Some of your costs were above and some of your costs were below, but the process I was very impressed with for middle school students, to put these proposals together; it’s very impressive,” he said. 
 “And the trouble of it is, we are perplexed by some of the very same things that you are talking about, trying to figure it out and how to squeeze it in our budget.”
 Councilwoman Layna Hafer said she hoped that the students had their eyes opened to the tremendous expense taken on by taxpayers to keep the city in good shape and functioning.
 “That’s the hardest part of trying to have a great city: everything just costs so much money. I really hope that that was a great ‘ah-ha’ moment for you guys.”
 “I want to thank you for taking the time to be here, to let us know what you think and the projects that you want us to work on and, like the mayor said, a lot of these things, we are on the same page with you,” said councilman Larry Hogg. “But please know that you have been heard.”
 Councilman Sterling Blackwell underscored the importance of listening to the city’s youth.
 “We want you guys to be happy here, too,” he said. “We want you to come back and continue to want to live in Weiser, so it’s good to hear your guys’ opinion. 
 I know sometimes adults can forget what kids want, but if we believe truly what our [Welcome] sign says – that we care for our kids, that we love our kids – it’s things like this here that makes us think, ‘alright maybe we need to refocus,’ to pay attention to what our kids want and how we can make that happen.”



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