I’ve had many voters ask questions recently and want to take the time to answer those questions at this time. Most of the questions are about issue 21 and the school facilities.
Issue 21 is a bond issue for about 76 million dollars for the building of a new 6-12 campus, 700 seat auditorium, stadium renovation, new transportation complex, renovations to the current middle school, abatement and demo for two school buildings.
I attended the guided tour of CHS 10/3 so that I could decide for myself what I thought of the condition of the high school and what the needs are. As expected for a 68-year-old building, there are some issues which need addressed. In an ideal world, all of our schools would be replaced with brand new buildings.
The bond issue has been the source of some conflict in the community. Some of the conflict is about the amount of money. Some is about how the money is being spent. And some is about a lack of trust with the current administration. Most of the community has agreed that something needs to be done for the aging buildings. The state report card shows us that the quality of the education has not suffered which is a testament to the teachers in this district.
Since I was not on the board when this plan was put together, I want to start by saying I will respect the vote and the will of the people with November’s election results.
As a teacher for 16 years, I fully understand the needs of the teachers and how facilities impact the ability to teach. As a high school swimming coach for 15 years, I also understand the importance of athletics and how this impacts many of our student athletes. As the name implies, student athletes are first and foremost students. Education is our top priority and needs to be so.
The levy is asking for 5.9 million for stadium renovations, 3.6 million for a complex to house the school buses and 4.7 million for a 700-seat auditorium. That’s 14.2 million dollars for nice things to have for a school, but not essentials. 14.2 million dollars is almost half of the cost of the proposed new elementary school building.
If we take a look at the facility assessment report from the state, we can find renovation recommendations for each school. Multiple options were provided, but for sake of comparisons I will use the most extensive renovation costs for each school. To renovate all of the schools, including Hambden, the estimated cost is 53.8 million dollars. The costs for new schools outlined on the school facilities overview presentation is about 92 million. The total for phase 1 and phase 2 bonds is about 112 million dollars. In addition to these bonds, there will likely be an operations levy needed in the next 3-5 years as well.
Would this be the facilities plan I would have presented to the voters? The answer is no. I would like to prioritize the basic needs of our students and staff before asking the taxpayers for monies for nonessential items. The school facilities need addressed and this will be a top issue for the board of education if issue 21 is not passed. It will remain a top priority if issue 21 is passed. Perhaps this will also answer the question about why my signs have been in the same yards of vote yes and vote no signs.
There was a question about funding for Science Olympiad. The school currently provides zero funding and I would like to see that changed. I think the school board should evaluate how all extracurricular activities are treated for funding.
Sites where information was found:
School Facilities Overview 7/19/2019
Phase 1, Phase 2
Chardon Local Draft Master Plan Option Cost Comparisons 6/11/19
Draft Master Plan 4/19/19
Facilities Assessment Report August 31, 2016