Student Letters to the Editor -- 6/7/18

Thursday, June 7, 2018

MOB needs more funding to present local history

The Museum of the Beartooths in Columbus needs more funding in order to present community history to the public. The funding could be done by donations from the mine, local businesses, and, if approved by voters, from local taxes. This in turn would help with expanding the museum. The museum currently hosts the Stillwater Brewfest and the Stillwater Shindig where people pay to attend in order to raise money. This would help the museum have more room for the exhibits on the floor. The exhibits are important because they are all donated to the museum by people in Stillwater County, so all the exhibits are locally-based.

In a recent online survey of Stillwater County residents, we gave community members a pop quiz and asked them to select from a list the former names of Columbus. 66.5 percent (⅔) of participants correctly identified Sheep Dip. 48.1 percent (less than half) of participants correctly identified Stillwater as a former name of Columbus. Only 13 percent of participants correctly identified Eagles Nest as a former name. This is a problem because the local community members don't know much about the past of the town they live in or near. Similarly, only 56 percent of the community correctly said that the Second Crow Agency was located near Absarokee. Despite this, 91.9 percent said preserving local history is important, and, of those, 61.1% say preserving local history is very important. 69 percent of respondents have visited our local museum.

Museum director Penny Redli says the lack of floor space in the museum limits the exhibits she is able to have on display. She said, “I'm getting pretty good at arranging the items on the floor because of the lack of space to have everything in the museum, and it would help if we had an open ceiling plan to fit the bigger exhibits in the building.” It would draw more attention to the museum if they had newer and bigger exhibits on the floor. This would bring more field trips from schools to the museum to show the kids the history of the county in a hands-on situation.

This is why the museum should get more funding to help with the possibility to get more exhibits on the floor at one time. The public should get in contact with county commissioners to find ways of getting proper funding for the Museum of the Beartooths.

Peyton Alwardt, Jacob Renouf



Mountain lion sightings could mean danger for locals

People have been spotting mountain lions in suburban areas throughout Stillwater County. If we do not do something to get the mountain lions out of suburban areas soon, someone could get seriously hurt. We need to inform the general public about the encroaching predator numbers. We need to take the necessary precautions to reduce the wildlife populations within our towns.

For instance, we found in Absarokee that the recurring pattern of mountain lion sightings in town was linked to the number of deer in town. We conducted a survey and found that many of the responses support the theory that the reason the mountain lion numbers are rising in town is because the population of game animals is rising in those same areas. One survey respondent said, “People need to quit feeding deer in city limits, especially in Absarokee.” Another said, “People need to learn that feeding the deer on their property may be cute, but it will also bring in other wildlife like turkeys, geese, ducks, and mountain lions, etc.”

Some respondents described witnessing people feed dog food, cat food, and corn to deer in Absarokee, and many of the residents there are angry about it. One said, “Fish, Wildlife, & Parks should fine people for feeding the wildlife! … In Absarokee, the deer population is HUGE!” And another respondent said, “People need to stop feeding deer in Absarokee. I have had 16 deer in or very near my house at one time. My yard is literally blanketed in deer crap and game trails. I’m very sick of it.”

We think that people feeding the wildlife and not deer-proofing their landscape is the reason why mountain lions have been in suburban areas. The article in the Billings Gazette had information from FWP game warden Paul Luepke who said, “Lions normally will shy away from people unless they have a reason - such as a rich food source.” Looking at our survey results it showed that only 5.1 percent of people feed the wildlife and 19 percent of respondents said their neighbors feed the wildlife.

Another option is attractant reduction where the community regulates personal landscapes that might be attracting the deer, like reducing lawn size and food-bearing trees. If the community really wants this problem to go away, they should be willing to do so. A third option is called removal and exclusion where FWP would capture mountain lions and relocate them or tranquilize them and relocate them. All these options would work, but we think the first option would work the best for our area.

Braydon Barker, Tanis Milne



School buses should have seatbelts for student safety

Since November 2016, there have been multiple school bus crashes throughout the country, with serious instances such as Paramus, N.J., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Saskatchewan, Canada. This is serious because children and teachers are dying, and families are losing family members.

Some decision-makers feel school buses are safe enough and there aren’t enough problems to change the way school buses operate. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses “are the most regulated vehicles on the road,” and the NHTSA reports that an average of about 11 people die each year in school transportation. NHTSA says these deaths represent only 1 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide.

But the examples above show a bigger impact. In the Paramus, N.J., example, more than 40 people were injured and two died in a 2018 crash. In Chattanooga, more than 30 were injured and six died in a 2016 crash. In the Canadian example, 14 junior hockey team members were injured and 15 were killed in a 2018 crash.

In May of 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that “...42 states that don't require for lap and shoulder belts on large school buses add such a requirement. It also recommended four other states upgrade their requirements from lap-only belts to lap and shoulder belts.” This is a solution from a reputable source.

The Center for Advanced Product Evaluations ran multiple crash tests with school buses with two dummies belted in and two not belted in. In a head-on crash, the unbelted students got thrown in the aisle, and the ones that were belted in remained in their seat, hitting the seat in front of them. In a rollover test, the unbelted dummies were thrown throughout the bus, and the belted in ones remained pretty safely fastened in their seats. Larry Grey, CEO of a seatbelt company, said that the unbelted dummies are “... thrown throughout the vehicle and they hit hard surfaces or the roof of the vehicle. So we see that seatbelts protect and reduce injuries.”

I think that we as a community need to stand up and say that we need seatbelts in our school buses. It has been proven that it will help prevent injuries and death in case of a crash. We need this in Stillwater County because it would devastate a small community if we lost members to a bus crash.

Carter Beer



A bowling alley would give families something to do locally

If you’re familiar with life in Columbus, you know there aren’t many available activities for families. Many teenagers complain there’s not much to do unless they go to Billings or Laurel. There aren’t a whole lot of options for young people. Yes, they could go fishing or play at the park, but not everyone enjoys doing that, especially not all the time. Not to mention, fishing gear and licenses aren’t cheap.

In recent surveys of Columbus High School students, many said they travel to different towns in order to have fun. We asked the students and the community what they thought of local entertainment and most of them said that it was poor or inadequate. When we asked what activities they’d like to see in our area, many responded that “Anything would be nice. There’s nothing to do in town.” Really, the only entertainment available in town are restaurants, some parks, a pool, and an ice skating rink (which two are seasonal).

There was a bowling alley in Columbus with a restaurant and casino in the building as well. It was pretty popular, but eventually it lost that popularity and was closed down soon after. We want someone to reopen the bowling alley so Columbus and surrounding areas can have something that will draw the community closer together.

Some people think a bowling alley would cost too much to rebuild, open, and maintain. Some would suggest building a new bowling alley would be a better idea than reusing the old building. It definitely would make it modern, but it would also cost more than fixing up the old place. There is also the issue with location. The bowling alley was a pretty popular option and at least 51 percent were extremely interested. People are really interested in having a bowling alley again.

True, it would cost a bit to start it up again. But it could provide jobs for people, especially teens looking for after school and/or summer jobs. If the building incorporated a restaurant and an arcade, it could increase cash flow and make the bowling alley more appealing and enjoyable. If it were family friendly, it may encourage more people to go. It could also draw tourists to the area. It could also help some people stay out of trouble with illegal substances.

To appeal to younger people, they could incorporate special nights, like discount night or glow-in-the-dark or disco bowling. If the bowling alley was updated, it would definitely draw people in.

Columbus would benefit greatly from a bowling alley. It would give the residents something fun and enjoyable to do other than sit at home glued to a screen. It could also potentially help reduce the number of people who recreationally use drugs, alcohol, or other illegal substances because they have nothing better to do. It could be family friendly, open up job opportunities, and attract more people from other smaller towns like Absarokee.

Cassie Cowger, Karlee Haun



Cyberbullying is a threat to the health of our community

Cyberbullying is a threat to the health of our community because it can cause suicide, depression, and other problems. I recently surveyed Columbus students, teachers, and community members about this problem. 23.7 percent of community members say that a family member had been cyberbullied. On the surface, this number doesn't seem so large. But, as cyberbullying could lead to someone risking their own life if the problem becomes large enough.

Thirty-three percent of Columbus High School students say they have been cyberbullied. With Columbus High School’s current enrollment at 214 students, this means that roughly 71 students in the school have experienced cyberbullying. 54 percent of students said they had witnessed someone else being cyberbullied. Only 22.4 percent of students said they had not witnessed a classmate being cyberbullied. If so many people are witnessing cyberbullying, then why aren’t more people reporting they have been cyberbullied?

The website shows that cyberbullying can cause many negative results, such as depression, isolation, self-hatred, and self-harm. It could even lead to suicide. Cyberbullying happens to one in five kids across the country each year, but we don't know how many kids total are victims of cyberbullying because they often don't tell anyone. Because cyberbullying can cause depression, students who experience cyber bullying can struggle in school.

Although cyberbullying is a big issue, not many people in our community tell others. We must find ways to prevent cyberbullying throughout our community. Officer Timm, the CHS school resource officer, said he would like to find more ways to help students report cyberbullying experiences. An idea Officer Timm and I came up with together was a cyberbullying hotline. This could be similar to the suicide hotline, and you could talk to someone about what is happening and the best way to approach the problem. The community needs to be there and support the kids who do reach out for help and create access for those that don’t.

Madison Cramer



Plans for a “commons” in new construction a good one

A commons area is planned for the new construction proposed at Columbus High School. The commons area would consolidate the middle school and high school libraries together with the cafeteria and the high school lobby. This commons area would create a central space in the facility for students to gather for studying, completing school work, socializing, and dining.

Right now, crowding is a problem in the high school hallways. The commons area would be beneficial because it would help reduce this crowding problem. Also, students might stay on campus more frequently for lunch, instead of leaving the school and risking being late. They may also enjoy going to school a little more if they had a place to relax or do their homework in a calm area. It could also be beneficial for the teachers as well because the staff room can become crowded sometimes. A commons area would allow room for teachers to collaborate.

In interviews with the teachers and cleaning staff, all agreed that the commons area would be good for the students and staff. Mr Hoge, a science teacher and a member of the building committee, said, “I’m all for this idea because students wouldn't stand outside the classroom awkwardly.”

Our guidance counselor, Ms. Whiting, thought it would be a good idea because she believes we should have a place to relax and socialize. This would be beneficial because students would have a chance to talk to new people. If this were to happen, they would make more friends. She believes this because students usually hang out and crowd the hallways or sit by their lockers.

Lebanon High School in Missouri, named one of the best schools in America by U.S. News & World Report, has positive quotes everywhere in the hallways and the bathrooms. The walls are also decorated to recognize students who have achieved in academics and athletics. This would be beneficial for our school because, when students see the positive quotes, it would make them feel happy or make their day better than it was. If they were to see the plaques of how many scholars that we have had and how many students have succeeded, they would believe in themselves. They would also see how well they could succeed, in school and in life. They would have a better self-esteem in school and believe that they can achieve great things. Another wall at Lebanon High School displays photographs of all the teachers with their college diplomas. If we were to create a similar display in our new commons area, it would show how well-educated our teachers are and inspire the students to respect and listen to their teachers.

I believe the community should vote for this project. I understand that their taxes would be raised, but it would make a big impact. Columbus High School should have a commons area.

Skyler Hannigan



School security needs immediate attention across US

School security needs to be addressed across the country because innocent students are getting killed in what is supposed to be a safe learning environment. Door barricading devices and more school security would be beneficial in the event of a shooting. It might even deter a shooter. So far in 2018, according to a Washington Post report, more people have been killed in schools than have died in the military this year. In 2017, less than ten people died from school shootings, and in 2018 there have been almost thirty deaths already. These deaths included students and teachers.

Some people think that arming teachers would be a good solution to this problem. Teachers already have much to do in their classrooms and carrying a gun would be an extra burden on them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a security officer’s salary is around $30,730. According to the National Education Association, the average starting pay for a Montana teacher is $24,685. Teachers are already underpaid for the work they do, and between grading papers and teaching the class, some teachers don't want to handle the extra burden of having to carry a gun. In a survey we conducted in our school, all but one of our teachers at CHS said they wouldn’t want to carry a gun. Having only one teacher with a gun in a school would be ineffective because it’s not that one teacher’s job to carry a gun and protect the entire school. If the teachers don’t want to carry guns, how would it work to try to arm teachers? Door barricading devices were favored by the teachers. We found a device called the Z-Lock that costs $35 per door.

Other people also think that we should get rid of guns altogether. We believe this would be ineffective. There are many illegal things, but people still have them. So if we took guns away, the bad people could still get the guns and that leaves the good people unable to defend themselves. There is much that can be done with guns that is not for evil intent. It’s the evil people behind the weapon that causes tragedies.

Armed security guards or police officers in schools and door barricading devices would be effective ways to make schools safer. If someone who was going to shoot up a school knew that there were multiple officers in the building, it would most likely deter them from even wanting to try to shoot up the school in the first place. Also, even if they did decide to shoot up the school, the multiple officers would be able to neutralize the threat very quickly, which would minimize the threat to innocent students. The door barricading device would also keep people safer in the classrooms in the event of a school shooting by not allowing the threat to enter the classrooms.

Reece Hogstad, Tommy Campbell



Sidewalks creating dangerous conditions in Columbus

The town of Columbus wasn’t well planned when it was built. It was so unplanned that it had four different names: Eagles Nest, Sheep Dip, Stillwater, and, finally, Columbus. Today, it’s the sidewalks that aren’t well-planned. They are in different places all around Columbus, and they are in poor condition because of poor maintenance. Most of the sidewalks are near the churches, stores, and school areas. But there aren’t many around blocks that are close to the schools. In some places, there are sidewalks on one side of the street and none on the other side.

The town of Columbus grew as the population expanded. We added more buildings and added sidewalks as needed. We put sidewalks and crosswalks from the elementary school to the high school, so students would be safe.

People think Columbus is safe, but accidents happen. The amount of sidewalks in town forces people to walk or ride bikes on the roadways. Many people think this isn’t a problem but this causes citizens to be in a dangerous situation. We put out a survey to the high school for opinions on the sidewalks and roadways in town. When we got our results back, many people said that they have had to walk, run, or ride bikes on the roads or they have seen others doing the same. This is potentially dangerous because citizens could easily get hit.

Also people should walk against traffic not with it so they can see what is coming at them. We don’t have enough sidewalks in town for people to do this because there will be sidewalks on one side of the street but not the other. It all depends on the direction they are walking. This is also potentially dangerous because citizens can get hit this way as well. We should add more sidewalks to our town to prevent accidents from happening.

The problem to that is that we don’t have enough money to add more sidewalks. According to Mr. Danen Johannes, a city council member, “The amount of money needed would be over a million.” We would need to pay for different companies to look at engineering, concrete, and plumbing. According to Kisha Miller, the city clerk, “Last year we used $42,000 just to fix potholes and roads in town.” We need more money to add sidewalks, so why not add fundraisers or raise taxes.

The better idea would be to add fundraisers or many people are going to get frustrated if we raise taxes to make funds for sidewalks. If we had to contribute money for taxes, it would be easier to pay as a town rather than separating the money. Some fundraising ideas would to hold sports tournaments so people would pay to play in sports they wanted to. We could also have family fun days to help with this idea.

Sky Brooker, Ethan Hood



Sidewalk situation is dangerous for area pedestrians

The sidewalks throughout our town are nonexistent in most areas and the sidewalks we do have are in bad condition. It causes safety risks for both pedestrians who are walking throughout town and drivers as well. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are around 4,500 pedestrian deaths on roadways every year, and 8 percent of those people died because they were walking in the roadway instead of on sidewalks. They also stated that all of those deaths could have been prevented if they had been walking on a sidewalk.

Sidewalks can also provide benefits to pedestrians’ health and well-being. According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and studies by the Florida Department of Transportation, when good sidewalks are present, people walk more.

Many parents in Columbus drive their kids to school because there are no sidewalks for the kids to walk on. A recent survey we conducted showed that 66.7 percent of community members say that there are not enough sidewalks in Columbus. The survey results also showed that 84 percent of people say that the sidewalks we do have are not maintained well and are unsafe. One of the major concerns people in our community expressed was how difficult it was for people who are in wheelchairs or are pushing strollers to get around town.

Sidewalks cost a good amount of money and that money has to come from somewhere. Prices of sidewalks can vary depending on what materials are used. For one foot of concrete sidewalk that is 48-inches wide and 3-inches thick, it would cost $9.53, which is including the cost of all materials and the cost of labor. We estimated it would cost $31,000-$35,000 for all four sides of one city block with the lengths of each side being 350 feet long. We calculated our estimate from the website.

We believe that to lower the cost of installing sidewalks all over town, we should just put them on important streets. These would include streets by the grocery store, the schools, the museum, the courthouse, and other residential areas. The money for these sidewalks would likely have to be raised through a slight increase in taxes.

The sidewalks around Columbus are not in good condition. Our research has shown that members of our community are not satisfied with the current conditions of the sidewalks. Quality sidewalks would be a great benefit to the community. It would be safer for people of all ages, whether they’re walking or driving. For these reasons, we should increase taxes to cover the cost of replacing and adding new sidewalks. If there were more sidewalks around town, and it would provide a way for members of our community to travel safely throughout our town.

Izaak Huncovsky, Trey Stampfel