February 1, 1998 in Nation/World

Computers Grab Most Attention In Bond Vote High-Tech Upgrades Appear Key To Fate Of Schools Issue

Jeanette White S Amy Scribner And Kevi Staff writer
 

Darrell Gonser and JaDean Thomas will cancel each other’s vote Tuesday, when the fate of a $74.5 million bond for Spokane public schools will be decided.

Both based their decision largely on District 81’s desire to put more computers in every school.

Thomas hopes the bond passes. She thinks students will have trouble finding jobs and getting into college if they can’t use computers.

“Without computer skills, they’ll be left in the dust,” Thomas, 63, said during a break from her clogging class at Corbin Community Center last week.

Gonser isn’t convinced. “I’m a little old-fashioned. I think they should concentrate on the three R’s,” the 67-year-old drug counselor said. He and his wife, Deborah, will vote no.

“They need to be able to fill out a job application, and half the kids I see can’t even do that. The computers and stuff comes later,” he said.

The bond, the largest the district has ever asked the public to support, includes many projects - from construction to remodeled science rooms.

But computers are a common thread luring many voters to the polls. Every school would get technology upgrades from $25 million earmarked for equipment and wiring.

That would buy at least 4,000 computers and accessories, educators estimate.

The most expensive project, a dramatic renovation of Lewis and Clark High School, is also attracting its share of voters. About $41 million would be spent to buy more property and remodel the building, which is so old that Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1911.

The plan to preserve LC’s Gothic-Tudor style is inspiring Lori Holmes to vote yes, even though she didn’t know how the rest of the bond money would be spent.

“I like the way it looks,” said Holmes, an East Central resident whose children attend LC and Grant Elementary School. “I don’t like this new stuff the district builds.”

Laura Green is an LC alum, but her reasons for voting yes go beyond school loyalty.

She lives across the street from Hart Field on the South Hill, where the district considered moving the campus. “I do not want them to build there,” she said.

Tracy Collins, another South Hill resident, said he’ll vote for the bond, but wishes it included more new schools.

“I don’t think there are enough schools on the South Hill with respect to how many students there are,” said Collins, 37.

Others still aren’t sure how they’ll vote.

Renee Hedrick, who works at Dolly’s Corner Cafe on North Washington, is among the undecided. “I wish teacher salaries would be increased” with the bond money.

Lorelei Zickler, 46, who attended Browne Elementary in the mid-1960s, described herself as a “possible yes vote.” If the bond passes, $7 million would be spent to rebuild Browne.

Zickler recently moved back to the north Spokane neighborhood and was surprised by Browne’s appearance when she went there to vote.

“I wandered around the school and was in disbelief because it did not seem to change a bit,” she said. “It looked like it really needed help.”

There are also those who just can’t fathom approving a $74.5 million bond for schools.

“Seventy million. My God. We’ve got people starving,” said hairstylist Lorrie Allen, waiting for customers at Supercuts on Indian Trail Road. “Can a computer feed people? I don’t think so.”

In winter elections such as this, school officials worry about low voter turnout as much as they worry about voters like Allen. Nasty weather can keep people home. Also, there are no other major issues on the ballot to attract voters.

About 26,000 Spokane residents will have to punch ballots to validate the results. Judging by the reactions of some, that won’t be easy.

Ted Mushrush, a courtesy clerk at Safeway on 29th, said he hasn’t registered to vote but quickly added: “I hope it passes. I really do.”

Jenny Kissell looked up from feeding her baby girl in northeast Spokane. “I didn’t even know about it,” said Kissell, 24.

Educators are crossing their fingers in hopes they get the word to enough people. They’ve pitched the bond to about 80 community groups, such as the Lions and Rotary clubs. They’ve tried to sway parents at school site council meetings, and sent home pamphlets reminding people to vote.

Volunteers placed about 2,000 yard signs and mailed at least 50,000 fliers, said Bill Hyslop, who co-chairs the nonprofit Citizens for Spokane Schools.

They’re knocking on about 16,000 doors this weekend.

If educators are fortunate, everyone will think like Ruby Lake, a white-haired woman who smiled when answering a knock at her door.

“Our son is the principal at Browne Elementary,” she said. “So you know how I’m going to vote!”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Graphics: 1. How the money will be spent

2. Budgeting school improvements

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Jeanette White Staff writer

Staff writers Amy Scribner and Kevin Blocker contributed to this report.

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