If voters fail to pass Proposition R Tuesday, Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the board of education will have to make some critical decisions about the district’s future.
Proposition R is a two-part ballot — the first question is a $9 million bond issue dedicated to completing projects with no increase to the current debt service levy, and the second seeks approval of a $40 million bond issue that requires a 25-cent increase to the existing debt service levy.
Question 1 would allow the district to go to a completely wireless technological infrastructure and build an early childhood center. The second question would allow the district to build a new middle school.
VanLeer told board members Wednesday night that if the ballot issue fails, one of the decisions the board will need to make is how to prevent overcrowding in some of the elementary schools.
“West needs classrooms as early as next year,” she said.
VanLeer said to make more room at West if the proposition fails, the board would need to decide whether to put “art on a cart” to enable the use of the art room as an added classroom or purchase another modular classroom building.
“We would have to decide if we are going to have to have a modular trailer, either temporarily or permanently,” VanLeer said.
The district currently has 12 modular classrooms, six on the West campus for early childhood special education, three at South Point and three at Marthasville Elementary.
VanLeer said the district pays about $70,000 per year for modular trailers and the start-up cost for each unit is significant.
VanLeer said passing Proposition R would allow the district to close Fifth Street Elementary, which is in dire need of major repairs, and South Point, which is located in a floodplain. The current middle school could then be converted to a K-5 elementary.
Failure of Proposition R would also affect the district’s 21st Century Learning plan, a state-required road map for obtaining the district’s objectives and long- and short-term goals.
One of the most prominent goals of the 21st Century Learning plan is providing a state-of-the-art wireless technological infrastructure, one of the major projects that would be enabled through the passing of Proposition R’s question one.
“Our inability to deliver resources and tools needed to implement our strategic technology plan, which calls for distance learning opportunities, online learning resources, laptops, tablets, etc. is of serious concern,” VanLeer said. “This starts with the infrastructure upgrade throughout the district.”
VanLeer said the district also is moving to online state testing and must be ready to assess thousands of students within a particular time frame each spring.
Most importantly, VanLeer said, is the fact that technology is used in almost every profession around the world and it’s the district’s responsibility to prepare its students appropriately in the most modernized and meaningful way.
“Our opportunity to work through the district’s technology plan is pretty much on the table,” she said. “Failure means we struggle to implement strategies in a timely fashion, if at all.”
In addition, a failed Proposition R will force the district to re-prioritize some of its capital improvements.
“We’ll have to decide what gets deferred to make other things happen,” she said. “For example, right now the track is in disrepair to the point where we can’t run home track meets on it. We might have to re-prioritize it so we can keep our band festival, which is huge.”
All the district’s needs are on the table, she said.