GJ lawmakers backing $185 million school bond issue

State Sen. Josh Penry and Rep. Steve King endorsed the $185 million school bond that will be put to voters in November, citing the projected growth in District 51 in student population was not an “abstract guess” but a pressing need.

The bond package, which earmarks money for two new high schools, two new elementary schools, repair of existing facilities, land acquisition and replacing Orchard Mesa Middle School, could accommodate the growth across the valley for at least the next 10 to 12 years, said Duke Wortmann, co-chair of Friends of District 51.

Penry said he has never endorsed a measure such as this, but even by conservative estimates, he said, Mesa County is one of the fastest growing regions in the state.

“I know we look for value in our tax dollars,” King said. “But this is our future. It’s time to put our money where
our mouth is.”

The district is catching up with the 2004 bond, which voters approved to provide $109 million to build and repair schools around the district, Wortmann said. But student population has continued to grow since then, he said.

“We were hurting in every avenue in ’04,” he said. “We’re dreaming a bit into the future now.”

King said he believes graduation rates at the high school level are directly linked to the size of a school’s
enrollment, that rates decrease as class sizes increase.

The two proposed high schools would be in Orchard Mesa and Appleton, and the two state legislators made their endorsements Wednesday at the proposed site for the Orchard Mesa high school at 30 1/2 and B Roads.

King acknowledged that selling the bond measure to voters without school-aged children will be difficult, but those people need to remember the trickle-down economic benefits of a strong education system, he said.

“I think it’s narrow-minded and short-sighted if you start thinking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ” King said. “What’s in it for you is visiting a well-educated doctor or lawyer.”


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