Voices: An Open Letter to the School Board

About a month ago I sent a letter to Mr. Mahon, the Bowman County School superintendent to bring to the school board.  Not having heard any response from them, I’m going to share parts of the letter with the public to keep the conversation going.

Some time ago during Linda’s and my evening walk, I was surprised to find the football field lights on at a late hour.  That was my first impression, but it was only for a moment.  My second impression almost immediately afterwards was, no, they’re in the wrong place.  They must have installed new sports field lights to the north of the football field.  I left it at that for several days until I realized the lights were on every evening, in fact, every night, all night long.  Checking it out, I discovered that they are, in fact, parking lot lights—and not just ordinary parking lot lights, but dazzling lights, many times brighter than the average street light, bright enough to read a newspaper by, bright enough to light up the town blocks eastward in from the school.  I was dismayed.

I have not taken a poll of residents in the part of town affected.  I do know that others besides myself find the unshielded lighting on at school walls in-their-face and annoying.  But I speak for myself as a light-sensitive person when I say that I consider these new lights a significant degradation of our lives in Bowman.  Linda and I won’t be walking the streets anymore where these lights are in our face.  Maybe there are people who are not tuned to their environment who may not pay much attention to them.  But we are a school, trying to bring education and awareness and sensitivity to a new generation of young people.  If we diss our surroundings like we do with this kind of night lighting, we have taken a misstep.

We can’t expect electricians from the last century to think of these things, but we can gently point them in the right direction.  1) Do we really need that much light for a parking lot?  Who says so?  2) Do we really need the light all night long?  Isn’t it expensive?  Can’t a timer be installed for the sake of economy or maybe a switch in the school building?  3) Do we really need to light the roof of the school and the Lutheran church and the eastern half of Bowman?  Did anyone over there ask for light?  Can’t these things be directed a little better?  Even if an electrician hasn’t fully addressed these kinds of questions, we as a center of culture and learning should.

I am sure that the school board had the best interests of the community in mind by providing night lighting.  Now let me invite them to consider whether this really turned out the way they intended, and whether we can’t improve on what has been attempted.

Mark Nygard

Bowman, North Dakota