Re-visioning supporters pack EVSD board meeting

THURSDAY, JAN. 13, 2011

Discussion continues on PK-8 transition in district

Supporters of East Valley School District’s re-visioning plan came to its board of directors meeting Tuesday to have their say in the ongoing debate.

The district is proposing a plan to close the middle schools and make neighborhood schools prekindergarten through eighth grade and set up a middle-level learning center, which would include enrichment classes as well as remedial classes.

The board room was so full there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. Many attendees lined the walls in the back of the room.

Mike Bly, a parent, graduate of East Valley and a member of the committee that took a look at revamping the system, also spoke.

“We all want to make the district better,” he said. “We really need to do something that really shakes up the system.”

Superintendent John Glenewinkel presented a report about the plan.

Currently in the district there are 139 students in grades three through eight who don’t expect to graduate. There are also 532 students in all grades who are no longer being challenged.

The buildings are failing, too. East Valley spends 9 percent of its operating budget to maintain the schools, when most districts spend 8 percent. That one percent difference represents about $500,000.

Art Tupper, an opponent of the plan, said that is why he is against a bond to restructure the district. He said since the plan is connected to construction, if the bond fails those buildings won’t be remodeled. He said the board is taking its chances with re-visioning and a bond.

“We take that chance anyway,” said board member Heidi Gillingham.

East Valley hasn’t passed a bond since 1996. The last three bonds were to improve the failing middle school buildings, the last of which was for $34.5 million.

Glenewinkel said this new proposal that could be in front of voters in April would be for $33.75 million and they expect $32.5 million in matching funds from the state – almost dollar for dollar.

He added that current research supports kindergarten through eighth grade schools experience higher academic achievement, reduced violence and higher graduation rates. He said that even in studies that don’t support academic achievement in those schools report an increased level of self-esteem in their students and a stronger feeling of safety.

“(I was) unable to find a study that shows a PK-8 system is harmful to students or has a negative impact,” he said.

If approved, taxpayers can expect an increase of 86 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Board chairman Mitch Jensen said he heard a rumor stating that the bond would cost property owners $50 to $70 a month if it passes. He checked this out and found that if a property owner was paying $50 a month, the assessed value of their property would be $674,000. If they were paying $70 a month, their assessed property value would be $943,000. He also found out that a home with an assessed value of $170,000 would pay about $12.18 cents a month.

“I spend more than that at McDonald’s,” Jensen said.

In all, several teachers and parents stood up in support of the proposal. One student, Leland Hale, a junior at East Valley High School also spoke to the board.

“They actually care about us,” he said of the board. “We want to see our past school become the best it can be.”

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