As always, my opinion,not necessarily anyone else’s ….
Occasionally, people who are trying to decide whether or not to support the Phase 2 elementary school renovation plan ask questions about the plan. Here are a couple questions that have been asked.
Question 1: Why doesn’t the school board just close Haigh now and get it over with?
First, a decision to close Haigh has not been made. Closing Haigh might be a possibility if enrollments continue to decline. Second, there’s no room in the other five elementary schools to educate Haigh students until 2015-16, so Haigh couldn’t be closed now without significant class size increases and significant re-districting. No one wants significant class size increases and significant re-districting. Adding additional rooms to Soule and Fisk was considered, but it was determined that extra rooms wouldn’t be needed in 2015-2016, based on current projections, so the school board decided not to ask for nearly $1 million for rooms that won’t be needed. The school board also knows that using “average numbers” like “total elementary students divided by total elementary classrooms” to see if closing Haigh could be done now isn’t realistic. This approach assumes equal numbers of students in every grade at every school and that’s not the case. Thirdly, no sitting school board can make a decision that legally binds a successor school board. The current school board can’t decide to close Haigh “in a few years”. Any actual decision to close Haigh, should that happen, will be made by a different school board.
Question 2: Why don’t we just move right to the high school and renovate it now?
A Salem High School renovation plan is being developed now. A committee has been meeting for a couple months and has concentrated on renovations to the Salem High Career and Technical Education Center (CTE), formerly known as “the VOC”. The State has always provided money for two CTE center renovations per biennium budget. Salem was supposed to be renovated in 2015-16, but another CTE Center missed some deadlines and Salem was moved up to the 2013-14 budget. The State has just over $7 million set aside for Salem as long as a “reasonable” CTE renovation plan can be provided by the end of this March. That’s what the committee is focusing on. At the same time, the committee is working to integrate the CTE renovation plan into a total high school renovation plan. The high school is one building and CTE courses are integral to it, so the CTE renovation needs to be viewed as one part of a whole building renovation plan. The earliest a plan would be ready for a vote is March of 2014. Suitable concept plans should be available by then, so voters will know what they’re being asked to fund. But, the renovation committee and school board are very unlikely to ask for funding until the plans are ready.
So please understand, the school board has thought long and hard to develop a good master plan. Now we, the people of Salem, need to pull together and act on the plan. It isn’t fair or right to provide half the elementary students in Salem with safe, updated and appropriate schools and leave the other half in unsafe, inadequate and sub-standard schools. Please vote to continue the master plan and renovate our last three elementary schools now. Vote "Yes" on school Articles 2 and 3.
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