The La Vernia News presents both sides of the $33M school bond election for voters to consider. Read the "Against" article at http://lavernianews.com/2013.
By Jennifer M. Moczygemba
“Vote no," advocate, Herbert V. Williams Jr. stated; “A vote no means sensible taxation. This bond will take our school district to the maximum allowable debt limit. There will be no more room in the debt ceiling for any new improvements for several more years.
A vote no means we don’t want to put our school district and our children in such a poor financial position. A vote no does not mean that we don’t support our kids, as the “Vote For” page would state. We support our children and grandchildren, by not strapping their community with the maximum allowable debt to provide their education.
Other “Vote No” advocates have said we don’t need this bond right now. We should hold off until we can afford a brand new high school. I don’t believe we have 10 to 15 years to wait. Our current bonding cap is $36 million dollars. A brand new high school alone would cost no less than $80 million. We need not only a high school but also a junior high and we need them right now.
The numbers bear this out. These numbers show the current actual enrollment and the enrollment projections based on the demographic study. The projections are based on the known possible future developments as well as population trends for the district. For projected numbers, see table.
This bond issue addresses the needs we currently have. It considers population growth, expands the educational opportunities, and addresses current renovation needs to move forward with projected growth.
As you can see the numbers in red reflect the junior high school enrollment already exceeds the classroom space we have available. Based on the demographic studies this situation is projected to occur at the high school as early as next year, and in four to five years at the intermediate school. We need actual permanent classroom facilities today.
Many have asked: what happens if we don’t pass this bond issue in May? The answer is simple. The district will be forced to purchase portable buildings to be placed at the junior high and high school. The projected cost of one portable building is approximately $80,000-$90,000 for a two-classroom building. At a minimum, based on demographic projections, this next school year the junior high will need two portable buildings and the high school could need one as well. The cost associated with those three portables would be approximately $255,000.
The long range planning committee was charged with certain non-negotiables in their discussions. These non-negotiables were determined by the committee, not administration and included the safety and security of students and staff; space for learning; and technology for learning. So let’s consider the other factors associated with portable buildings as pertains to the non-negotiables of the committee.
Safety and security in a portable building
•The students must move from classroom to classroom. As the campuses exist today there is no fencing to protect the students. They are able to go in and out of any building because they have to do so to get to their classes. This means that any outsider can do the same. The bond addresses the need for this security fencing, but with portables being temporary in nature, it doesn’t make dollars and sense to add fencing until there is permanent structure.
•This means more staff is needed to monitor students and keep them safe. More staff not able to educate because they are needed for security instead.
•If students are in and out of buildings they are subjected to the elements. Some would say, “Kids are spoiled, they should not be so worried about getting hot or wet.” I ask you to consider, when was the last time you sat in an overcrowded classroom with a sweaty and/or wet adolescent?
•We don’t yet know where these portable buildings would be placed. Safety becomes an issue when students have to cross parking lots to get to a classroom.
•Additionally, if these portable buildings were set on current parking lots, new parking would be necessary to accommodate the loss of current parking.
•With the addition of portable buildings on the campuses, traffic congestion will become an even larger issue than currently exists. All campuses in our district sit adjacent to state highways and the congestion gets more problematic every year.
•According to the American Institute of Architects, “It’s difficult and rare today to make an aesthetically pleasing prefab, portable classroom. Considering how many formative years the next generation of Americans will spend at school, that’s a sadly missed opportunity. Furthermore, portable classroom HVAC systems rarely perform up to traditional standards. The initial cost of the HVAC system is usually low, but includes high maintenance costs during the lifespan of the building. There are other HVAC problems as well when compared to normal classrooms, these include higher rates of dirty air filters (40 percent vs. 27 percent), blocked outdoor air dampers (11 percent vs. 3 percent), and poor condensate drainage (59 percent vs. 12 percent), which can lead to microbial contamination.”
Space for Learning
•As you can see from the table based on the demographic projections the junior high and high school will need additional space this coming year. Already teachers report overcrowded classrooms. Not only do students enter the classroom, often times their overstuffed backpacks accompany them as well. It is difficult to learn and teach in such an environment. Many of the current classrooms at the high school were designed for a primary age child not a high school student. The bond would allow for modification of some of these rooms.
•If we don’t have the proper space to instruct, the district cannot extend new and varied courses to the students. Students are requesting more courses in health careers, cyber technology as well as the ever popular and growing culinary arts program. With more space for learning that is properly wired and equipped, we could begin to offer more certification type course work thus allowing students a path to the workforce straight out of high school. These types of classes are not conducive to portable buildings.
•Currently we need a junior high band hall and library to meet the needs of all our students. The high school desperately needs a larger cafeteria so as to have more and better scheduling options for student course work. None of these structures can be effective in a portable building.
•Portable classrooms are not a viable long-term fix for the problems we face as a district.
Technology for learning
When the technology piece of this bond is discussed it is understood that this is technology infrastructure. This technology is not computers and equipment, but the infrastructure necessary to educate students in this technology driven world in which we live. We all want faster stronger access to information. We need a properly paved technology highway for our students.
There are other benefits to this bond issue that are necessary now. A few of the buildings utilized at the junior high are not in good repair. Some of these buildings are old and have outlasted their usefulness. Repairing versus replacing is not cost effective at this point. This bond issue would allow us to tear down these aging buildings and provide our current and future students with an environment conducive to learning.
Finally, the district will repurpose the 100 building to embrace its historical significance. The 100 building is the original building from the 1930s.
Without a learning environment prepared for the 21st century our vibrant La Vernia will wither on the vine. The most important element of a town is the health of the school district. When doing research on where to locate, the first thing families research is the school district. If we don’t continue moving forward and preparing for the future growth, our district will regress. Home values will decline and the needs will still exist. Business cannot survive in La Vernia without excellence in our school district.
Lastly, the current average price of a home on the market in LVISD today is approximately $295,000. If a person pays that much money for a home in our vibrant community, do you believe they want to register their child for school only to be told their student will be housed in a portable building? For that matter do you want your child in a portable building?