Archive for Thursday, November 15, 2007

Starside project should be based on need, cost

November 15, 2007

After appearing to be ready to a pay for a badly needed addition to Starside Elementary School through the district capital outlay fund, the De Soto USD 232 Board of backed away from that decision last week.

Like all building projects in the district, the Starside expansion decision should be based on need and affordability. As for need, there is little question the school is the No.1 priority in the district, although that could change as early as next year with the enrollment growth at Mill Valley High School. And the need at Starside is for classroom space, not legitimate -- but sometimes disparaged -- room for band or athletics.

The capital outlay fund is flush with $8.2 million. Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said using the money on the project was affordable. Its completion with the capital outlay fund would remove its cost from the next bond issue, which almost certainly will be put before district voters in 2008.

What's troubling was talk among board members during the Starside discussion of De Soto's history of not supporting bond issues. On one level, that's meaningless. Once passed, De Soto residents have no choice but to support all bond issues.

It's also true that the much-commented on split probably is more demographic than geographic. With it's larger percentage of senior and retired residents, the west side of the district understandably is less enamored with school building projects than the young families who moved in large numbers to the east side in the past decade.

District residents and the board would be better served to view all bond referendum failures as district failures, which the August and September mail-in referendum certainly was. Recent bond referendums that failed did so because the constituency that would support new schools didn't vote in sufficient numbers for the bond issue to carry. There should be no blame associated with those who did exercise their right.

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