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Archive for Thursday, November 1, 1990

ELECTION TAB

November 1, 1990

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Residents of the Lawrence school district will vote Nov. 6 on a proposed $31 million bond issue for building a second high school and making other facilities improvements. The following list of questions and answers is designed to provide voters with basic information about the two projects.

Q: What exactly would be provided by the bond issue and at what cost?

A: The bond issue will finance:

Constructing and equipping a new 265,000-square-foot senior high school with physical education facilities on the grounds. Cost: $23,565,000.

Renovating the 36-year-old Lawrence High School. Improvements would consist of upgrading the school's electrical system, providing air conditioning and other climate control, adding a new library and commons area, upgrading the school's plumbing, adding a greenhouse, upgrading locker rooms and updating the school's outdoor physical education facilities. Cost: $7.06 million.

Adding athletic fields on the district's property at Holcom Park for use by schools and the community. Cost: $275,000.

Constructing additional classrooms at Wakarusa Valley Elementary School. Cost: $650,000.

Constructing additional space for special services and for those with hearing impairments at Sunset Hill Elementary School. Cost: $150,000.

Bonding and legal fees, bond registration, bond rating and miscellaneous expenses. Cost: $100,000.

The total cost the improvements would be $31.8 million, $800,000 over the bond issue amount. School officials say interest earned on the bond revenues would cover that $800,000 in costs.

Q: Why is the Lawrence school board proposing the construction of a second high school?

A: School officials say that although LHS is not overcrowded at present, it will be when today's large number of junior high and elementary students reach high school age. Also, a second high school will create enough space to house ninth-graders at the high school level instead of the junior high level, freeing up classroom space for seventh- and eighth-graders at what will become three middle schools.

Q: Why do school officials expect secondary enrollment to grow?

A: Districtwide enrollment has grown every year since 1981, from 7,022 students in the 1981-82 school year to 8,825 students this year. Today's elementary enrollment is greater than present secondary enrollment. Also, births at Lawrence Memorial Hospital last year numbered 1,150, the highest figure in more than 25 years.

This year's senior class has 573 students, compared to the 533 students that were in the class when it entered first grade. Brian Kubota, president of Landplan Engineering, told the school board in May that based on planned residential growth, districtwide enrollment could increase by 2,470 students within the next 20 years.

Q: If LHS isn't overcrowded, why is the school board recommending that ninth-graders be moved to two high schools instead of building a fourth junior high school for grades nine through 12?

A: School officials say that because Kansas students begin meeting high school requirements in the ninth grade, freshmen should have access to the entire high school curriculum. Also, according to district projections, grade 10-12 enrollment in 1993 would be 1,989 students, which would be difficult to accomodate with present high school facilities.

Q: Where would the new high school be, and what would be the enrollment boundaries?

A: The site for the new high school is west of Wakarusa Drive and just north of 15th Street. LHS is at 19th and Louisiana. Students north of 15th Street would attend the new high school, and those south of the street would attend the present high school.

An exception would be a "hub" for students living south of the new high school but within walking distance of the school. The hub would be bounded by Wakarusa Drive on the east, 23rd Street on the south and County Road 13 on the west. However, students living in subdivisions exiting only onto 23rd Street would attend the existing high school.

Q: How would the move to two high schools affect curriculum?

A: School officials say that only four of 41 vocational courses would not be offered at both high schools because they would be too expensive to duplicate. Those four programs would be offered at the present high school, and students from the second high school could be bused there to take the courses.

School officials say only elective courses with low enrollment would be cut. However, elective sequential courses, in which students can move on to higher levels of the course after completing an introductory course, would not be cut.

Q: How many more teachers would be needed with two high schools?

A: School officials say new teachers would be hired, not as a result of a second high school, but strictly in response to enrollment growth in order to maintain a student-teacher ratio of 21-1. Critics question that assertion, saying that in order to duplicate sequential courses that have low enrollments, the district will have to hire additional teachers.

Q: How much will it cost to run the second high school?

A: School officials estimate that it will cost an additional $900,000 annually to operate two high schools and three middle schools than it would to operate one high school and three junior high schools.

The actual annual cost of operating the second high school would be $3.7 million. However, operating costs would decrease at the present high school and at the three junior high schools because of the ninth- through 12th-graders being taught at the new school.

The $3.7 million would cover the salaries of a principal, three assistant principals, 64 teachers, four counselors, two librarians, one nurse, 10 secretaries, four paraprofessionals and 19 custodians. The money also would pay for utilities and insurance.

Q: What will be the cost to individual businesses and homeowners to retire the bond issue and to operate the second high school?

A: Each bond will be retired over 15 years. However, because some bonds will be issued in 1991 and the rest in 1992, district residents will pay off the bonds over 16 years.

The average annual mill levy increase for paying off the bonds will be 8.5 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

For the owner of an $80,000 home, that translates to $81.60 a year, or $6.80 a month.

The mill levy for additional operating costs is estimated to be 2.98 mills. For the owner of an $80,000 home, that translates to $28.60 a year, or $2.38 a month.

The total cost of paying off the bonds and covering new operating costs would be about $110 a year, or $9.18 a month, for the owner of an $80,000 home.

Q: What are some reasons people are opposed to the bond issue?

A: Citizens for Education, a local group opposed to the bond issue, says it is against the proposal because:

Haskell Indian Junior College has not given written assurances and might not make its stadium available for two high school football teams unless the district commits substantial funds for improvements and maintenance.

Future boards of education are free to change the boundary lines for the schools.

The existing high school could be expanded at substantially less cost.

Improvements to the present high school should be made through capital outlay or other appropriate funds, not through a bond issue.

A single high school is a unifying factor. A second high school would divide the community.

The site for the east high school is too far west and in the wealthiest part of the community. A new school on the east side would enhance that area of the city and promote more uniform city growth.

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