Maintaining a strong public school system is important for our children, but they aren't the only ones who benefit.
Good schools help attract businesses and good employees to Lawrence and keep them here. Good schools provide the kind of leadership and activities that help turn our young people into productive citizens. Good schools are part of the contract we all have with our community to provide for today's children an excellent educational opportunity just as other taxpayers did for each of us and our children when we/they were of school age.
The school bond issues that will appear on Tuesday's election ballot are a reasonable investment to promote safety and learning in the Lawrence school district and deserve the community's enthusiastic support.
Two bond issues are being sought: a $54 million issue for construction and renovation of buildings and $8.9 million for technology upgrades. It's not an insignificant amount of money, but, if the expenditures are delayed, the costs will only rise, and it's a good investment in our district.
The lion's share of the construction bonds, $31.9 million, will go to replace South Junior High School. While this school might have seemed like a good idea when it was built in 1968, it now stands as a grim reminder that the "latest thing" doesn't always stand the test of time. The existing building doesn't have adequate classrooms, cafeteria, gym and special education facilities and can't be remodeled effectively because of asbestos used in its construction. The building is inconvenient and dangerous for students and faculty members because the round layout breaks sight lines that allow proper supervision of students and visitors.
Although some have argued the district should rebuild South at another location, the Louisiana Street site is well-located to serve expected expansion to the south. This building can't be improved and must be replaced. The price tag is rising; now is the time to get the job done.
The city's other three junior highs will receive $16.9 million in renovations to expand some facilities and add classrooms to eliminate portable classrooms. Eliminating portables is a convenience issue, but, more importantly, a safety issue for students and teachers who have to move between portables and the main school buildings. Renovating 50-year-old locker rooms and science labs at Lawrence High School is long overdue, and adding industrial technology labs at Free State will eliminate the need for those students to travel to LHS for those classes.
The $8.9 million technology bond issue will expand computer networks and wireless Internet access and buy almost 2,000 laptop computers for students. It's hard to keep up with the rapidly advancing computer technology, but the district has to do its best. Providing these services at schools is especially important for students whose families can't afford computers and Internet access in their homes.
Various criticisms of the bond issue have been raised, many of them not based on sound facts. Some opponents have focused on the money that will be spent to hire a consulting firm to oversee the construction projects. Project management fees are as much a part of major construction projects as architecture and engineering fees. The 3.5 percent project management fee that will be applied to $40 million of the bond issue is comparable, if not below, what is paid on most public building projects.
None of the bond expenditures are extravagant and all will provide direct benefits for students and for Lawrence. Compared with other districts across the state, Lawrence's bonded indebtedness is low. If both bond issues pass, it will cost local property owners a little over $2 a month in additional taxes on each $100,000 of appraised property value.
It's not much to pay for facilities and equipment that are so important to our next generation. We urge you to vote "yes" for both bond issues on Tuesday's ballot.