Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2007

Board finds summer bond referendum not needed

March 8, 2007

Members of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education considered hearing more statistics and studies regarding school sizes in their continuing quest to find space for more students. Then they realized nobody was going to change their minds.

"I'm not sure why we keep going back to the question of school size," board member Sandra Thierer said. "We already decided 550 to 600 students at the elementary level."

An informal tally proved Thierer correct, as board members said that no presentation would change their minds about the school sizes.

Finally, the board decided to ask the district staff to research the cost of each item that was on the recently failed bond issue as well as the cost of additions to existing elementary schools. The idea was that board members would determine at the next meeting which projects were necessary.

In a referendum last November, district voters rejected a $105.7 million bond proposal by a mere 32 votes. Meanwhile, as construction of new homes in the area continues to add several hundred new students each year, board members must decide how to accommodate that growth.

School board president Don Clark said he would be willing to increase the number of students at the elementary level. He said this idea was one he heard from several members of the community.

"A stop-gap bond would take care of our immediate needs," Clark said. "If we could increase the elementary schools by 100 students and that could help our problems for a few years then I would support it."

Other board members said not much could be changed from the failed bond issue proposal because the same space issues need to be addressed.

Board member Janine Gracy suggested a small portion voted against the bond because of concerns over boundary changes. Most agreed they did not want to do this again in two years.

"We should look at something long range," board member Rick Walker said. "If the state Legislature requires all-day kindergarten, I don't want to have to scramble to cover for that."

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said a new bond issue might need to be before voters in August or September if the district's enrollment increased to dire levels. This would require the board to vote on a bond at the next meeting.

Thierer put forward that the need was not that dire because they had already decided they would need to build during the school year.

Board member Randy Johnson, who campaigned against the last bond issue in the month leading up to the November referendum, said he would not be voting on any new buildings at this time because of recent questions on the district's construction procedure.

"Before I vote to build anything, I need to look at our bidding process," Johnson said. "I talked to a lot of people who were concerned."

Board members also voted to complete the upgrade process to voice-over IP telephone service and set a special meeting for March 26 to receive bids for fiber to complete network infrastructure for Horizon Elementary and Mill Creek Middle School.

The next regular meeting of the school board will be moved to April 9 from April 2 because that is the day before school board elections.

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