The Wyoming Board of Education is making a second attempt to get a construction bond request passed by voters, this time breaking it into two proposals and doing more to spread the word about the need for improvements.
Following the failed May vote on a $53 million proposal, the Board of Education voted in July to seek ascaled-back $49 million version of the request on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 ballot broken into two parts: Proposal 1 is for $37 million to fund security measures for school offices and entrances, additional classroom and instructional space and a completely remodeled high school. The second proposal, for $12.22 million, would fund a new Applied Arts Community Center and athletic complex upgrades.
If Proposal 1 is approved, the current millage will increase by 2.59 mills, costing the average homeowner with a $90,000 home $99 annually. If Proposal 2 is also approved, the current millage will increase by 3.49 mills, costing $133 annually. The $53 million proposal in May failed by 1,477 to 1,268.
Explaining the need
Wyoming Superintendent Thomas Reeder said the funds are needed for several reasons. “Our school sites are all approaching 50 years or are older; this means they were developed in a totally different era and need some upgrading that the district cannot afford with its operational dollars.”
Consolidating sites over the past decade has saved money, but those funds contributed to the operational costs of maintaining staff numbers and toward ongoing facility needs, he said. “Circumstances are that our school sites have entrances, offices, and in some cases pick-up/drop off areas that are not as safe as we would want them to be.”
The district’s art and music programs lack dedicated space, and schools have made do with classrooms, lunch rooms or other spaces without appropriate seating and acoustics. When schools were built decades ago, students went off site for lunch, students walked or rode the bus, and parents were rarely at school, Reeder explained.
Now, extracurriculars, closed campus lunch and an increased number of parents picking up and dropping off students have made entrance spaces and hallways crowded. Students are limited to using outside areas to gather and move. Better traffic flow through hallways is needed, Reeder said.
To address space concerns in the meantime, West Elementary has been relocated to the the former Newhall Middle School site at 1840 38th St. SW, along with some early childhood classrooms. The district has also redrawn some elementary school boundary lines to ease crowding.
The district has closed several school buildings in recent years. Though Newhall is reopening, Reeder is not looking into reopening more because of the cost involved operating them.
“More sites, more cost for administration, busing, secretarial… that takes away from the classroom. It is also is a huge disruption for parents,” he said.
Rallying for support
A group of parents are joining forces to spread word of the bond through the Wyoming Public Yes! campaign.
Volunteers and administrators recently canvassed neighborhoods to share information on the bond and pass out Golden Passes to allow seniors for free admission to athletic events.
Parent and local business owner Kristin Britten, whose children attend Wyoming Middle School and Wyoming High School, has worked with the group of parents passing out T-shirts, brochures and other information in support of the bond. Volunteers attended Wyoming Concerts in the Park Tuesday evenings to share information.
The goal is to clarify why the bond is needed and clear up misconceptions on how bond money can be spent. The group initially formed prior to the first vote, but is increasing efforts this time around, she said.
Britten said passing the bond is important for students and the community as a whole, which benefits from a strong school system.
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