The ball's in our court

Early in last week’s school board forum, the moderator mentioned the bright lights that the seven candidates had to endure on the stage of the Knoxville Performing Arts Center.

“How many of you have been up on a stage like this before?” he asked the audience, empathizing with the candidates. “It is bright up there!”

Nearly all of those candidates later would call KPAC a highlight of the school district that they hope to serve.

I have vibrant memories of my sons and their classmates shining on that stage in concerts and musicals. Perhaps you saw “Cinderella” last spring, or maybe a performance in the aptly named “Bravo!” series. When I first laid eyes on KPAC, I thought “Bravo!” to everyone who came together to make it happen. It’s a great facility, not just for students, but all of Knoxville.

The candidate forum was Act 2 of that night’s event. Act 1 was a discussion of Proposition A, the proposal on Tuesday’s ballot to fund eight new tennis courts and a basketball court on the site of the skate park, a stone’s throw from KPAC.

The current courts in Young’s Park are deteriorating and are a safety risk for students and the public. While school taxes would still decline overall from their current level even if Prop A passes, the addition of a new skate park and other improvements planned for Young’s Park will result in higher city taxes.

School and city leaders at the forum also discussed the “Plan B” of Prop A. That is, what happens if it doesn’t pass? A short term reality is that Knoxville tennis teams would need to travel out of town for practices and all meets. In the longer term, safety concerns might compel the city to pull down the tennis nets and dismantle the skate park jumps. We’d have two large, bare slabs waiting for a new vision.

This fall, for the first time in 19 years, my wife and I don’t have a child in a Knoxville school. No school-issued laptops clutter our kitchen table. No sons march in the band on Friday nights.

As an empty nester, I can question whether I should pay more school taxes for tennis courts. You might ask yourself the same thing. What we can’t question is the need for a solution.

This brings me back to those school board candidates and all the choices before us on Tuesday. The lights weren’t the only bright things on that KPAC stage last week. Seven gifted people are stepping up, ready to serve our community. The least we can do is get out and vote.

And no matter how you vote on Prop A, consider your role in Plan B, if need be. If it fails, are we willing to step up and work with the school board and city leaders to discover another way to provide safe facilities that our town can be proud of?

The ball’s in our court.

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