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Cache school district plans to fix crowded schools with proposed bond

November 2nd, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Manda Perkins

CACHE COUNTY − Voters will mark their ballots on Tuesday, but not just to elect city government officials. The future of a $129 million bond proposed by the Cache County School District will also be decided at the polls.

Approval of the bond would mean a tax increase for homeowners. According to the informational brochure produced by the school district, the tax on a home valued at $197,000 would go up about $125 per year.

With the funds, the district plans to build two high schools, remodel and expand several elementary schools (including seismic upgrades), convert three middle schools to elementary schools and replace Cache High School.

Mike Liechty, deputy school district superintendent, said these were recommendations from the building task force committee to address two major issues: the seismic concerns in the elementary schools and overcrowding in the secondary schools.

“This isn’t a Band-Aid approach by any means,” he said. “It’s a long term solution.”

Robert Henke, principal of Mountain Crest High School, said space really is an issue. Several rooms that once served as storage areas or science labs have been converted into small classrooms; he said there are at least seven examples of this at Mountain Crest.

“We’ve used every area we can think of as far as making new classrooms,” said Henke. “We’re doing everything we can come up with to provide space for the kids.” When Mountain Crest was built, Henke said, the district had ninth graders attending the high schools to fill them up, planning to move the 9th grade back into middle schools later. But that never happened.

“Mountain Crest and Sky View were not designed to be large high schools,” Leichty said. “When you keep putting more and more kids into them, it gets more difficult. Students are crowded in a building that was not designed for the number of students that they have.”

Some voters aren’t convinced this is the best remedy for the problem. Ralph Call, a Providence City Council member, said he is wary of adding to existing debt. “We can’t afford to do what they’ve proposed,” said Call. “It will take a couple million dollars a year to service the debt, and that’s a lot to impose on a small community. The cost of doing it is prohibitive and we should find another way.”

The school district reported $6,950,000 of outstanding bonds in June of this year. Liechty said the district is on its way to paying it off, after recently refinancing at a 1.8 percent interest rate. “Just that day we saved our taxpayers 2.4 million dollars,” he said.

Call also said alternative educational resources should be utilized instead of spending money to build more schools. “We should be asking, how can we get our best teachers the most exposure to the most students?” he said. “You could do that by delivering content over the Internet and using electronic media. There’s a lot less on-campus activity than there used to be in terms of face-to-face teacher student contact.”

Henke said he has heard this argument and does not agree.

“I think there’s a lot more to education than learning and regurgitating material,” he said. “Kids need to be able to think, they need to have social skills, they need to be able to problem-solve. I don’t think going to the internet is the best way to teach them how to do that. I think a classroom setting, where they have to problem-solve and deal with other students, is the best way to have those experiences.”

According to the school district, without this funding year-round school and double sessions may have to be considered. Liechty did not want to assume the outcome of the vote, but said new recommendations will have to be made if the bond doesn’t pass. He said he doesn’t see district schools running year-round any time soon.

“The final survey will be November 5th and that’s when people are going to tell us what they really think,” Leichty said. “It’s a lot of money, but if you look at what it will do for our district and the impact it will have on our families, it’s a good thing. But everybody has their vote and that’s what we’re about.”


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