Archive for Thursday, December 8, 2005

District reviews options in light of bond vote

December 8, 2005

Sending eighth-graders to Basehor-Linwood High School. Using a building owned by a local church for classes. Making drastic changes to district boundaries.

Let the maelstrom of ideas for the future of schools begin.

Administrators and members of the Basehor-Linwood school board met during a work session Nov. 30 to discuss facilities. It was the first formal facilities discussion the board has had since district voters rejected a $22.9 million bond issue in November.

Funds from an approved bond issue would have paid for construction of a new elementary school and renovations to every school in the district except Basehor-Linwood High School.

Several options regarding handling an expected influx of new students -- approximately 4,000 homes are in some stage of development within district boundaries -- but no firm decision was made last week.

Among the options under most serious consideration are those listed above, as well increasing student-to-teacher ratios, adding modular classrooms or proposing another bond issue next year.

At the meeting's outset, board members commented on the November bond issue's failure and why voters may have rejected it.

"I've had people say, 'I can't believe it didn't pass' and 'run it again,'" board president Kerry Muehler said. She added, "I think we ought to try again in April or May (2006)."

"I felt as positive about that as I could and it just didn't happen," said board member Douglas Bittel.

Administrators and board members alike expressed frustration at the bond issue's voter turnout. Less than one in three of the district's registered voters made it to the polls on Election Day.

"Part of that -- I'll call it apathy -- is that to a lot of people we don't have a problem yet," board member Patrick Jeannin said. "Why is that? Either, A: they don't see it, or B: they don't feel it."

He added that short-term solutions may have to be taken to handle additional students the district will receive from area growth. Steps may have to be taken that aren't necessarily attractive to the district, but drastic enough to "convince complacent parents that this problem is real," he said.

Increasing student-to-teacher ratio -- currently set by the board at 24-to-1 -- or adding modular classrooms are among patchwork remedies the school board may have to approve in light of the bond issue's failure.

"If we don't have space, there's no choice," Superintendent Jill Hackett said. "We'll have to have 28 to 30 (students) per classroom -- or you add modular classrooms."

"That's almost as bad as having trailer houses," Jeannin said of increasing student-to-teacher ratios.

Board member Gary Johnson said students achieving at a high level already won't be affected by higher student-to-teacher ratios. However, adding more students per classroom does come at a cost, he added.

"You're not going to hurt the good students anyway," Johnson said. "You're going to hurt the borderline ones."

A survey sent by the district last week to all district parents, and the guidance of the School District Advisory Council, will help determine what plans school officials will favor.

School officials will release results of the surveys before the end of the year. They will speak with DAC members during a meeting set for Thursday, Jan. 26, at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.

Jeannin said he'll have to be convinced that a second bond issue has widespread support before he favors moving forward with another election.

"I want to see data from the survey," Jeannin said. "I want to hear from the DAC and I want to hear people are willing to go to bat for this."

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