Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bond election decisions

January 31, 2007

The Basehor-Linwood School Board faces a lot of decisions in the near future that could make or break the upcoming bond issue proposal.

The board conducted a special workshop Monday evening, Jan. 29, to discuss election options, the timeline for the project, bond options and cost. Mark Franzen and Gordon Kimble of Horst, Terrill & Karst Architects also attended the meeting.

Election options were discussed for a late summer or early fall 2007 election.

"There are no general elections in 2007, so we can't piggyback on a general election," superintendent Bob Albers said.

Board members will have to decide whether a special election or a mail-in ballot would be better for the district. A special election would cost less at $6,000 to $7,000, compared to a mail-in election at about $21,000. But, board members, as well as Franzen, said that while the mail-in ballot option has quite a larger price tag, it might be a more convenient way for district patrons to vote because they don't have to be at the polls on a certain day. This, in turn, may produce a higher voter turnout. Board members also said, however, that a higher voter turnout may not necessarily result in a passed bond issue.

"There is a possibility of having a special election next fall or it could be a mail-in," Albers said. "We'll have to decide that."

Franzen and Kimble went over a tentative timeline they had created for the project, starting in February and ending in mid- to late-September. Albers said the date on the timeline for the election -- sometime around the middle of August -- seemed to be fitting with the new school year starting, but the rest of the timeline would need to remain flexible.

"I'll move things around to fit this board and your needs," Franzen said. "I think we need to tweak some of these numbers."

Board members have been thinking about different building options and costs for several months. Those options and costs were once again presented at the meeting:

  • A new sixth through eighth grade middle school -- $24 million.
  • A new fifth through eighth grade middle school -- $32 million.
  • A new kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school -- $12 million.
  • A new ninth through 12th grade high school (converting the current high school to a middle school) -- $36 million.

Albers also presented the capacity and current number of students at each of the six school buildings in the district:

  • Basehor Elementary -- capacity is 410 and currently has 390 students.
  • Glenwood Ridge Elementary -- capacity is 305 and currently has 270 students.
  • Linwood Elementary -- capacity is 150 and currently has 110.
  • Sixth Grade Center -- capacity is 170 and currently has 140 students.
  • Basehor-Linwood Middle School -- capacity is 350 and currently has 300 students.
  • Basehor-Linwood High School -- capacity is 950 and currently has 570 students.

Board members agreed the numbers showed the most crowding in the elementary schools -- especially Basehor Elementary -- and a new middle school could alleviate some of the crowding.

"It seems to me the relieving building here would be the middle school," board president Randy Cunningham said. "It would be relieving the capacity at the elementary school level and the high school."

"What I see is that we're all pretty much in agreement for a five to eight middle school," board member Dayna Miller said. "It will give us the most space for our funds."

Albers also said the latest statistics show that students feel more secure and achieve more the longer they are in the same building. A new fifth through eighth grade middle school would eliminate the Sixth Grade Center, knocking a student's trek through the district down to three buildings instead of four. It also was noted that three buildings would be less stressful for parents who have children attending multiple schools.

Others worried about the cost of a new fifth through eighth grade facility and the district's history of failed bond issues.

"If the $23 million didn't pass, the $32 million isn't going to fly," board member Gary Johnson said about the last bond issue that failed in Nov. 2005.

However, board members said that the plan itself is just as important as the price tag when obtaining "yes" votes. The last bond issue passed in the district was in 1997, which renovated the high school. Board members agreed that the 1997 bond issue was a good plan and something they believe they can accomplish again.

"You guys are in a tough spot," Franzen said. "You're going to make a tough decision."

The board also started on the first step for the bond issue proposal at Monday night's meeting -- community involvement. Albers shared some information about bond issues he received at a United School Administrators Convention he attended last week with the group.

"One of the most important factors in passing a bond issue is getting the community involved," he said. "Nothing will kill a bond issue quicker than if the community doesn't feel ownership."

Albers said at the last board meeting that he was interested in forming a planning committee made up of parents with children in the district, members of the business community, people who do not currently have children in the district, a board of education member and members of the education community, such as a teachers or administrators.

Board members provided several names from each segment of the community as well as each of the three areas of the district -- north, middle and south -- that might serve on such a committee.

Albers said he would compile a final list of names to hand out to board members. The board will come to a final decision on whom they will invite to serve on the committee at the Feb. 12 school board meeting.

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