School board studies options after bond fails

The District 51 board of education narrowed its growth management plans to three Tuesday and instructed a committee to investigate the viability of each option after voters rejected a $185 million bond last week.

The committee will report to the board with its initial findings in December on modular classrooms, reconfiguring non-classroom space currently in schools into classroom space and leasing facilities to house grade levels.

Melissa Callahan deVita, executive director of support services for the district, said the committee also will investigate the cost of implementing year-round school sessions.

For each option, the committee will research the effects on instruction, cost to implement and funding sources, duration of the solution and the facility availability of each option.

“The reality is that if these were the easiest choices,” Superintendent Tim Mills said of the options, “the long-range planning committee would have come forward with these as recommendations instead of the bond.”

The district will have immediate crowding issues to deal with for the 2009-10 school year at several schools already over capacity, Callahan deVita said, including Rim Rock Elementary, projected to be 263 students over capacity by next year, and Central High School, projected to be 250 students over.

Modular classrooms “burn money” because of their diminished resale value, board President Leslie Kiesler said, and some schools don’t have space to install them, said Cal Clark, director of maintenance.

The district could explore more permanent modulars, board member Ron Rowley said, rather than “throwaways.” Used train or shipping containers, for example, are cheap and are being used for building construction in other parts of the country, he said.

Rowley made the suggestion of leasing facilities, particularly at the high school level, to establish alternative schools, but the committee would have to determine whether attendance would be voluntary or if students would be assigned to the schools.

Kiesler said space such as auditoriums, gymnasiums and libraries could be used as temporary classrooms.

Board member Diann Rice said the options were “stop-gap measures” and that the board would eventually have to return to the voters with another bond measure to build schools.

“That’s a separate issue and should be dealt with separately,” Rice said. “If the next bond would be defeated in the future, we’d have to make much more draconian decisions.”

The committee will include Mills, assistant superintendent Steve Schultz, district administrators, principals, parents and teachers.

The board also heard from Glade Park community members advocating a school in the Glad Park area, the construction of which would be funded by a private donor, and asked to vote at its next board meeting whether to support the project.


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