The voters who opposed Referendum 4A delivered a subtle but clear message — we could have done better.
Since Tuesday night's defeat people have been kind enough to share their honest feedback. Most confirmed they recognize the need to replace Grand Junction High School. Some expressed questions about the costs. Others would have like to have had more information about the design and attributes of the new GJHS. All feedback has been constructive.
The strong show of support for Referendum 4A delivered a clear message as well — improving school safety and replacing Grand Junction High School are critical to this community. Supporters have shared that the proposed taxes would have been reasonable. They expressed genuine concerns about student safety. All emphatically stated that this must be brought back to voters.
At some point in the future there will be a referendum asking to replace GJHS and enhance safety and expand capacity in the other three high schools. GJHS is over 60 years old and worn out. Building 200,000 square feet of new school can only be completed with a bond, and therefore, an approval by the taxpayers. What will be proposed and when are future decisions for the District 51 school board. They will be taking into consideration the feedback many of us have been receiving.
Until the next referendum is passed and a new GJHS is built, the district will have no choice but to start to allocate the $5 million from the 2017 bond on critical repairs to keep the GJHS operational. As for security at the four high school campuses, the 120 unsecured entrances directly into school rooms and hallways will remain unsecured given the remodeling expenses required to secure those entrances. The growing communities of Fruita and Palisade will eventually exceed the capacity of those two high schools. We all need to recognize that the outcome of the election forces the school district to spend money on a failing school, imposes short-term capacity strategies, and requires our high schoolers to spend most of their day in schools that lack modern security components.
On behalf of the campaign committee and the school board I would like to thank the voters for your engagement. Participation is key to a functioning democracy. I would also like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers, supporters and donors. We could not have achieved such a strong support without your efforts.
The Founding Fathers of this country recognized the importance of a public education. We have an obligation to provide safe and adequately equipped schools. At some point another bond proposal will be presented to the taxpayers. There is a group committed to making that proposal better. Let's hope the electorate will take into consideration the long-term implications of defeating that future request.
Dan Prinster was the chairman of the Yes on 4A campaign commitee for Citizens for District 51.