Student Letters to the Editor 1

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Wind, solar energy not good alternative energy sources

Wind and solar energy are growing trends because they’re renewable energy sources. We need green energy sources that won’t run out and can easily replace fossil fuels. Unfortunately, these two sources of energy aren’t the answer because they aren’t as effective or “green” as they claim to be.

Solar panels aren’t able to obtain all the energy the sun emits in an area. Say you have a 5’x3’ solar panel. The Wilderness Society, a land conservation organization, says only 20 percent of that energy is obtainable and usable. A solar panel that small can’t produce much energy if it gathers a fraction of the sun’s energy. Many of these panels are needed to power your house, which takes lots of space and is very costly.

Solar panels and wind turbines rely on weather to make the energy people need. Not only is weather unpredictable, but it’s also something we can’t change. Sunlight that solar panels use can be blocked by clouds, trees, or buildings and aren’t usable at night. Weather isn’t much of a problem during summer, but during winter the sun is blocked by clouds most of the time, and it’s hard to obtain enough energy to power the things we need. Fossil fuels give us all the energy needed on demand. To have energy stored in a battery means the amount available is limited. Wind turbines can’t constantly run either. Sometimes the wind is too weak and doesn’t produce energy. Sometimes the wind is too strong and they have to stop the turbines and you don’t get any energy.

These sources of energy aren’t the answer to making the world a “greener” place either. For something to be “green,” the production of that something also needs to be green. According to Prager University, to obtain materials for solar panels and wind turbines, we mine, refine, and produce materials, and these processes require fossil fuels. The rare earth metal neodymium is used for magnets in wind turbines, and it’s hard to come by, which means we find the metal and then mine it, resulting in major usage of fossil fuels. Solar panels consist of highly purified silicon, boron, and many other complex compounds like titanium oxide.

Statistics gathered by Stanford University show that each wind turbine kills an average of 5.25 avians annually in the U.S. Wind turbines are considered a green energy source, and “green,” by definition, means to make less harmful, or sensitive towards the environment. Killing animals in large numbers isn’t good for the environment, making us wonder if it’s really green.

Noise pollution is a problem for wind turbines. The New York Times recently surveyed people residing near wind farms. A majority of those surveyed said it’s a constant nuisance and “something you can’t ignore.” For most people, constant droning noises can affect sleep, which causes health problems. Solar and wind energy aren’t the answers to our problems. It’s better to stick to fossil fuels.

Garrick Conner

Columbus

Dangerous intersection in Columbus needs traffic light

In Columbus, the worst place for traffic congestion is at the Pike and Pratten intersection by Yellowstone Bank because the train blocks the only railroad crossing for miles causing congestion. If we had a light at that intersection, the city would be able to control the traffic congestion after a train.

Columbus needs traffic lights at the Pike and Pratten intersection (near the railroad crossing) to reduce traffic, congestion, and, most importantly, to fix the blind corner. This blind corner is a big problem because collisions cost lives and money.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says, “Using traffic signals in coordinated systems may benefit travelers by: reducing traffic time, reducing air pollution, and reading congestion.” All signals are for safety’s sake, but coordinated systems are programmed to not only react to the flow of traffic, but also to predict driver behavior. Coordinated systems are for maximizing traffic flow along main roads, like East Pike Avenue in Columbus.

Traffic lights are a tool used to safely and efficiently manage vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic. Traffic light installation can cost around $300,000, although towns and cities can request funds from the Transportation Safety Foundation of up to $250,000. Although the price is high, it can be a fair amount less for a smaller city such as Columbus. Traffic in Columbus needs to be controlled at a few intersections, so idle time is cut down and congestion is lessened. We know this because community members have stated in our survey that they have experienced collisions there because of the blind corners and congestion.

The Kitsap Sun states, “There are two kinds of traffic light systems, actuated signals or semi-actuated signals. Actuated signals are hooked up to the surrounding intersections to maximise traffic flow. Semi-actuated signals just have sensors and timers to maximize traffic flow in just that intersection.” A semi-actuated signal is what we need for our small town because it would not cost as much as a light in Billings. In the future, more lights could also be added in places like 8th Avenue & 9th Street (near Town Pump) or 4th Avenue & 9th Street (near Sports Hut).

We need to prioritize traffic along East Pike Avenue, and we need a traffic light because it would help traffic after trains go by and during busy times like lunch. The city should request money from the Transportation Safety Foundation. This would benefit our town at a large scale. There would be less close calls at the blind corner and less congestion at the railroad crossing after trains.

David Cross, Wyatt Schatz

Columbus

Expansion size of CHS weightroom will be adequate

In 2018, local taxpayers approved expansions of the elementary and high school in Columbus. This included a plan to expand the high school weight room. The weight room is currently around 1,200 square feet. The plan is set to expand the high school weight room to about 2,000 square feet. The expansion will take away space from a current storage room and add it onto the weight room.

Students and coaches believe the CHS weight room needs this expansion because it is small and inadequate for the needs of student athletes. In a student survey, we discovered that 60.3 percent of students use the weight room to some degree. That is about 135 students using the weight room. We also discovered students would like to see more machines added, like treadmills and power racks. Our coaches survey showed that off-season training is very important to success. We believe that this training for success begins in the weight room.

Weight training not only helps out sports programs, it also benefits the overall health and fitness of a student. Barbara Brehm-Curtis, professor of exercise at Smith College, stated that “... strength training has a lot to offer some teenagers in terms of health, fitness and fun.” We happen to be two of those teenagers. When we are in the weight room, it is a great time to socialize with friends and get rid of all the stress that builds up from school or other things going on in life. We can also agree that when we are lifting consistently, we feel the healthiest. When the weight room gets too crowded, we have to rush our workouts, and it could result in an unwelcomed injury.

Each weight room station should have 64 square feet or an 8-foot by 8-foot area. The current weight room has space for 14 stations. The expansions would allow us to add 10 more stations for a total of 24 stations. With these new stations, we can add new equipment to increase the efficiency of the weight room. The main additions should be cardio machines, bench station, and power racks because they are the most used and most important stations. Based on our calculations and the available space, it would be really easy to add all of these.

Some people may argue the planned expansion is inadequate for the amount of equipment needed and for the number of students using the weight room. This might be caused by seeing other schools’ weight rooms. Huntley Project’s weight room has been used for lifting competitions with well over 100 people inside. Many may expect our weight room to be similar in size. However, based on our calculations, the planned addition to the weight room will be plenty of space.

Braydin Ellis, Bryan Barta

Columbus

Bullying definition should be added to CHS handbook

Bullying is a problem in our school, and we need to take it more seriously. It’s important to help educate the community about bullying to bring awareness and find solutions. Additionally, the CHS handbook does not fully define the issue and the consequences related to it. This is problematic because cases of bullying can be ignored.

Surveys of local students and community members show bullying is present in our community. About half agreed the school should take bullying more seriously. 61.8 percent of local adults and 43.5 percent of CHS students have been bullied. Additionally, 56 percent of students have witnessed bullying on school grounds. 24.5 percent of students have seriously considered attempting suicide, and Montana, according to NBC News, has the highest suicide rate in the country. Victims feel hopeless and bullying contributes to suicide rates and other issues. One student responded to our survey saying. “... rumors went around that I was pregnant and people called me awful names and I just felt like I had nothing left.”

Bullying should be taken more seriously by the school and community. By educating students about bullying, it may encourage victims to speak up about bullying and receive help. Some victims don’t report bullying because they feel like the school won’t help them or that the problem will only get worse.

The CHS handbook states the district will “help the student to relate to other people effectively” and “help the student become prepared for the world of work.” Bullying falls into both these categories because, when students bully, they are obviously not interacting in a positive way.

Some people may say kids today are too soft because “words are just words.” Others believe that bullying is not a real thing and that people are just sensitive. One response said, “It’s life, suck it up.” Bullying is more than “just words.” In our survey, a student said, “I was threatened that someone was going to kill me with a knife.” Another problem is people are bullied to the point where they feel like suicide is the only option. Both of these show that bullying shouldn’t be taken lightly because it involves people’s lives.

The bullying policy in the CHS handbook should be revised so students feel safe in school. Another student agreed, saying the school should have, “... a stricter policy so [victims] know they are protected.” One of the main obstacles to addressing our bullying problem is the lack of a clear bullying policy definition to help staff enforce it. We argue the CHS handbook should define bullying as the following: Any unwanted threats, insults, physical harm, humiliation, taunting, physical, mental, and emotional abuse, or aggressive behavior that is repetitive or has the potential to be repetitive. This includes making one’s learning environment hostile or using an imbalance of power, such as targeting ones weaknesses. With this change, victims would get much needed support.

Bailey Fiedler, Amy Hubbell, Brystol Daugherty

Columbus

CHS should switch to four-day school week schedule

A four-day school week would benefit students at Columbus Public Schools. Other Montana schools - including Roberts, Shields Valley, and Boulder - have switched to this schedule to help students get rested, have better attendance, and perform better. It also prevents conflicts between school and sports. Students also have more time to get work experience.

The American Association of School Administrators says, “A four-day school week can improve student and teacher attendance. Appointments for doctors, dentists, and home maintenance services are able to be scheduled on that extra day off. Doing this naturally boosts attendance for both teachers and students.” In a recent survey, 70 percent of the CHS students said they’d attend more school with a four-day school week because they wouldn’t miss school for appointments or extracurricular activities. In the teacher survey, only 22.8 percent of teachers opposed a four-day school week. One teacher said, “It’s great, teachers are rested, sports are scheduled more on Fridays, siblings wouldn’t also be pulled out to go to sporting events, attendance would improve, classes would become a little longer, more time to dive into curriculum.”

Having Friday off would allow students the opportunity to get rested. Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine states that “... sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.” Kids who get more rest are better able to focus or learn efficiently.

A four-day school week also has less conflict between school and activities because most activities happen on Fridays. Seventy-five percent of the students from CHS said school and extracurricular activities conflict with each other. If we had Fridays off, we could have games that day.

In our survey, some parents worried that if we switch to a four-day school week, they would have trouble finding child-care for their children. If we had this schedule, many of the students at CHS would be looking for work on Fridays. This would give many of teens/students an opportunity to babysit.

Tim Tharp, former Deputy Superintendent of Montana Schools, concluded that “If a school district is seriously considering converting to the four-day school week, a comprehensive plan must be in place to address the long-term loss of instructional days.” Tharp’s research shows test scores went up in the two years after schools switched to the four-day schedule, but schools have to make sure they don’t get complacent and lose that growth in the third year.

Students, teachers, and parents all agreed in our survey that a four-day school week would be advantageous. Columbus High School would be better off if we switched to this schedule.

Keeley Gomez, Shandee Dehaven, Kaiya Doney, Fallon Stoddard

Columbus

Suicide is a serious issue that needs to be discussed

Residents of Stillwater County need to know more about suicide. Suicide is sad, and hundreds of people per year in Montana are dying. It affects not only the person but also the people around him or her. While suicide is a worldwide problem, it is especially bad in Montana. Montana’s rate is 29.2 per 100,000 residents per year, compared with the national average of 13.4 per 100,000, according to a report from Center for Disease Control and Prevention published in 2018.

In a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it says, “the largest increases were seen among adolescents between two age groups -- 15 and 17, and 12 and 14 -- according to the study. Increases were also higher among girls than boys...” In a recent survey of Stillwater County residents, almost one third of the county residents have been affected by the suicide of a close friend or family member, which is telling us that we need to do more about it. Over one fourth of CHS students said they have seriously considered attempting suicide. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered by Columbus Middle School says 17 out of 100 have seriously consider attempting suicide.

Suicide can have many reasons. It can be because of bullying in school or on social media, have a mental illness. Some of the warning signs can be isolating oneself, using drugs or alcohol, not sleeping enough, or calling people and saying goodbye.

In Denmark, where I am from, there was a really high rate in the 1980s. It was 32 per 100,000 people and the United States’ suicide rate was only at 11.2 per 100,000. In 2012 the numbers were different. The Danish rate was at 8.8 and the United States’ was at 12.1. According to a report from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Danes were the happiest people in the world in 2009, but Denmark also had the highest rate of antidepressant use. Maybe there is a correlation between antidepressant use and lowering the suicide rate. In Denmark, it is also free to get professional help, and that is more popular today than in the 1980s.

Some people think that if we don’t talk about it, the issue will go away. Some people even think that if we talk about it, we will put the idea into a teenager’s head. For years, though, we have been ignoring the issue, and the problem has only gotten bigger.

Suicide is a big problem. We need to talk about it. Everyone should know the warning signs. Don’t be scared talking about, do something before it is too late.

If you or anyone you know might need help, call 1-800-273-8255.

Sebastian Hansen

Columbus

Wrestling team needs practice space at school facility

The CHS wrestling team earned many accomplishments just in this last year, including six individual state placers: Cooper Cook (6th), Brady Ellison (5th), Dylan Raihl (5th), Carter Beer (5th), Weston Timber-man (2nd), and Tanner Cook (state champion). The team placed at seven regular season tournaments and, for the first time in school history, earned first place at the divisional tournament in Townsend with three divisional champions.

The team then placed third at the state tournament, earning a state trophy for the first time in school history. The wrestling team was one of the most successful teams in our school this year, and their success adds to the culture of excellence here at CHS. Sixty percent of the students at CHS have attended a CHS wrestling event.

The team’s current practice facility is the Little Metra, a building at the Stillwater County Fairgrounds. The building is used year-round by the community, so the wrestling mats are stored elsewhere in a sheep barn. The wrestling team is dedicated and works hard for the entire season. Most even continue to work in the offseason, but, understandably, the Little Metra also has other community events going on during the season so the wrestlers are not able to work there every day.

The CHS wrestling team needs a practice facility and storage space at the school, similar to the other CHS teams. In a student survey we sent out, 88.6 percent of CHS students believe that all the teams at CHS need a safe, consistent practice facility. In another survey of local community members, over half of the people believe the wrestling team would benefit from a good, quality practice facility just like the other teams at CHS.

According to Columbus Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Bermes, it may be possible to build a new wrestling room. When we spoke with Mr. Bermes, he stated the school’s construction budget might allow for a new wrestling room to be put into the new building plans. He also stated that a good estimate for a wrestling room that is not attached to the school would be about $750,000.

If we want to keep the success of the wrestling team going, a new practice room is needed to improve the practice conditions and equality. With a suitable practice facility, it would enhance the culture of excellence at CHS. The team contributes to the school in more ways than just athletically. The improvement of CHS wrestling team’s practice facility could perhaps result in higher success rate for the team and improve the quality of our school as well.

Reed Johnson, Hannah Haverland

Columbus

Important to be informed about local sex trafficking

Sex trafficking is a problem in our community. People need to be more informed about the issue and how it can be avoided. According to our community survey, many locals don’t think sex trafficking is a problem here. But School Resource Officer Gary Timm says, “Sex trafficking in Columbus mostly occurs at the truck stop and is a bigger deal than people believe.” It’s important for people to take caution because sex trafficking is a serious subject that people shouldn’t ignore.

A recent article in The Yellowstone Valley Woman Magazine (YVWM), estimated that “human trafficking is a $32 billion a year criminal enterprise.” Although you believe you’ve never seen it, you probably have. You just didn’t realize it because you don’t know the signs. Georgia Cady, director of the Tumbleweed Foundation in Billings, Montana, states in the YVWM article, “We’re not unique in Montana, the victims don’t come from somewhere else, they’re from right here, our kids and the people doing the trafficking are here.” Cady also states, “Montana is known as the Truck Stop State.”

Sex trafficking is right here in Montana and around our community. This is important for people who think that it’s not a big deal and it won’t happen to them. There’s a higher chance of this happening to people than many believe. Cady states, “Billings, and Montana in general, are among the most profitable places for commercial sex in the western United States.” It’s happening close to our community.

If people are informed, they could save lives by reporting it. According to the Trafficking Hotline Article, “Sex trafficking at truck stops are advertised very low key. They also communicate through signals made with their trucks. Some have certain stickers on their windows, or they flash their headlights in a certain pattern to show that they are interested. They also have fake massage places where women are being trafficked. These companies are often advertised on billboards close to truck stops.” These are some things people can look for in order to protect themselves or report it.

Businesses where trafficking occurs should require their workers to attend a class and get informed about what to look for as well. If you notice something off that you believe could involve sex trafficking, you could either call the police, or the trafficking hotline. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is, (888)373-7888. We encourage people to become more informed and save people’s lives.

Kade Johnston, Trista Teeters, Kelsey Davison

Columbus

Poaching becoming a real problem in Stillwater County

Poaching is the illegal hunting, killing, capturing, or taking of wildlife. Poaching is illegal, yet people still do it. It affects our community, and something should be done to solve it. More and more, community members see wildlife carcasses, specifically elk and deer, with only the heads taken as trophies. We personally have found carcasses while hunting with only the head and backstraps taken from it.

Poaching is becoming a real problem in Stillwater County and in the Tri-county Region according to the survey we put out to the community. We talked to our local game warden Paul Luepke, and he said, when it comes to poaching, he deals with “too many to count.” Not many people are aware that poaching is happening or that it is a problem in our community. According to a recent survey of community members, only 31.8 percent of the community thinks that poaching is a problem.

15.3 percent of the people in our community know someone who poaches. If those people who know others who poach would turn them in, we could solve or have a dramatic decrease in poaching throughout our county and even our state. According to Montana Code Annotated 87-6-413, a person convicted of a violation in a section shall be fined not less than $50 or more than $1,000 or be imprisoned in the county detention center for not more than six months, or both. In addition, the person, upon conviction or forfeiture of bond or bail, may be subject to forfeiture of any current hunting, fishing, or trapping license issued by this state and the privilege to hunt, fish, or trap in this state or to use state lands. Poaching is not a joking matter. It’s serious.

We are privileged in this state to have access to our great parks and to have the privileges to hunt in these amazing areas. Luepke believes we need to increase the number of wardens locally because each warden has 2,000 square miles to cover. So if we had more wardens per 2,000 square miles, that would deter poachers.

If you have any information about poaching in our area, call the hotline number, (800)-847-6668.

Daniel Vanek, Columbus

Riki Stringari Plymale, Absarokee

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