Monday, November 25, 2013

Gaining District Wide Support for the Bond

I've been arguing that capacity concerns in the North and West part of the school district is a concern both during the 10-year phasing plan and after the completion of the plan. I'm still concerned about those matters, but the most recent iteration of the plan has addressed those concerns to a minimal degree. Rather than swinging Lincoln through the new North Elementary, it swings Lincoln and Mann together through the new East Elementary School. That proposal is incrementally better for the North Corridor, and that's good with minimal costs.

I think it is now time to consider if it might be wiser to build the North Elementary before the East Elementary, and swinging Longfellow and Mann+Lincoln through it just as they are currently slated to go through the East Elementary. Both would still open at the same time in 2019.

Doing this would significantly increase the district wide support for the phasing plan. Since 1989, there has been a minimum of 29.5% opposition to every single bond vote. In other words, about 30% of voters rejected every single bond put forward, and typically, it was much higher with many failing. Given the likely size of the bond, there could very well be significantly more opposition to this bond on that basis. Given the assumption that there will be a minimum of 30% opposition to the bond, if any other 10% of voters choose to vote against the bond, then it will fail. If the last school board election is any indication of turnout, that would be approximately 800 voters. In short, the board and administration need to do whatever they can to ensure as much support as possible for the bond. It is important to get full and district wide support.

I have already expressed how the district can gain wide support from the the Hoover community.

But there are other concerns about district wide support. In the current plan, most of the projected funded from the RPS vote are on the east side. That includes the first phase of the City High expansion, both the South Elementary School (which will relieve capacity concerns at Grant Wood), a capacity addition at Longfellow, and the new East Elementary School. There would be some east side communities that would be harmed if the bond vote weren't passed, but the current iteration of the phasing plan gives less incentive for east siders to vote for the plan. Making the North Elementary come from RPS funds and the East Elementary a part of the bond, while swinging all three schools through the North Elementary school would give more communities on the east side incentives to vote for the bond without diminishing the likelihood that communities in the North and West would vote for it. You see the bond vote is necessary for building the North High School, and it is also tied to being severely overcapacity at West High.

So, to ensure district wide support for the Facilities Master Plan, it would be helpful to address the closure of Hoover as I've suggested and it would be helpful to flip the North and East Elementary schools. Both would still open at exactly the same time, the only difference is that some of the swung schools may go a bit further to the North Elementary than the East Elementary, but the benefit for the entire district of gaining support for the bond would significantly outweigh this concern. Even if this particular proposal with regard to the East and North Elementary schools is not feasible, it is important to find a better balance to garner the most support for the bond vote.

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