Get informed on school bond issues

By Chuck Kajer

Voters in the New Prague Area School District will have another chance to vote for or against new school buildings.

Last spring, voters said no to a plan put forth by the school board to build three new elementary schools, in New Market, New Prague and Lonsdale, and to remodel and reutilize the current intermediate school. A committee of 30 individuals, many with differing views on what course the school should take, met for two months during the summer to look into all of the enrollment figures, demographics and many other factors that go into shaping a school bond question, and they recommended a two-part question. The first question asks for $36 million for two new elementary schools, in New Prague and New Market. The second part calls for an additional $24.5 million to build a third elementary school in Lonsdale, and build an addition to the six-year-old high school building. At the request of some of the task force members, the board added a third question, asking for $2.5 million to build a pool as part of the proposed high school addition.

Looking at the enrollment figures, there is no denying that new buildings are needed. All four buildings are at or beyond capacity, with enrollment continuing to climb. One of the concerns many district residents had was whether three buildings were really needed. The task force concluded that building two schools as soon as possible is vital to the continuing development of the district, and that those schools would be full a short time after opening. They left it to the voters to decide whether to go with the two schools, putting off the financial impact of a third school for two or three years, or to take advantage of cost savings and potential state aid by building three buildings.

Vote Yes groups are being formed in the various communities to campaign for the new schools, and no doubt there will be some opposition groups that will ask to be heard. Over the next 11 weeks, there will be many opportunities to ask questions, look at numbers, both actual and projected, and to study the issues.

It is important that voters become informed on all the issues involved and make their choices based on the needs of the district and its taxpayers, not on personality conflicts, rumors or misinformation. After all, it is the children of the district that have the most to gain or lose.

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