Archive for Thursday, February 13, 2003

Rural, urban growth issues can clash

February 13, 2003

The differences between living in urban and rural Douglas County are more than merely physical, Trudi Rice of Kansas State Research and Extension pointed out at a rural-urban issues session in Eudora last week.

"Farming and non-farming neighbors have different occupations and different ways of doing things," Rice said.

In order to help the Douglas County Commission, Rice and others with K-State Research and Extension are traveling to sites across Douglas County, gathering information about residents' concerns with the county's growth and development, especially how it affects the rural-urban dynamic. Rice said she expected the information would be compiled and presented to the Commission in upcoming months.

Rice said aside from causing physical problems -- like private property issues and historical preservation concerns, which came up at the sessions' other venues -- growth in Douglas County also causes cultural strains between "natives" and "newcomers," whatever that meant.

"If I got there first, I'm the native and you're the newcomer," she said of the common attitude. "A lot of times in Douglas County the first neighbors move out (to the country) and it's OK. When the next one wants to move out, it's not OK."

Aside from adding population and stretching rural infrastructure and services even further, newcomers can often expect more or higher-quality services like the ones to which they became accustomed while living in technology classes equipped, because they will come in handy when the state's three units of science requirements kicked in. If the district couldn't offer "tech science" courses for non-college bound students, Kobza said they'd be faced with passing chemistry or physics.

Although technology grants for schools are abundant, many of them came with socio-economic requirements Eudora couldn't meet, Kobza said.

In addition to computers, the district's phones need upgrading, which Kobza said could come at a cost of $40,000. A district-wide upgrade would mean intra-district calls could go through fiberoptic lines, meaning such calls wouldn't tie up outside analog lines.

The Board discussed the merits of both leasing and purchasing technology equipment. Board member Carlie Abel said he thought it seemed as though the district was spending a lot of money on technology, but fellow Board member Kenny Massey said such expenditures were justified.

"Once you get behind on technology, you don't catch up," Massey said.

The technology issue extended into discussion of the district's libraries, which Board members said they were concerned had too few books. Kobza said the Internet was changing -- but not diminishing -- the importance of school libraries. Technology-savvy libraries can improve students' access to research materials, he said, by allowing them instant access via the Internet rather than waiting several weeks for inter-library loan books to arrive.

Kobza told the Board about a reading program, which he planned to present at upcoming meetings, that has students using computers as a tool for, not in lieu of, reading books.

"Hopefully we never get people away from reading books," he said.

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