East Valley School District’s transition to kindergarten through eighth grade schools took another step forward Tuesday when the board held a public hearing to discuss taking on $6.2 million of nonvoted debt, also known as a limited general obligation bond.
The funds would buy two portable classrooms each at Trent, Trentwood, Otis Orchards and East Farms schools. One portable would include four classrooms and three restrooms. The other, a triplex, could be used as a multipurpose room or as classroom space, depending on the needs of the school.
Last week, Executive Director Brian Wallace said the nonvoted debt would be paid for through savings the district is seeing after the closure of Mountain View Middle School.
On Tuesday, Superintendent John Glenewinkel presented a large audience with an overview of why and how the district plans to make the transition to four elementary or “community” schools that will serve students through the eighth grade.
He said the district was not satisfied with the academic status quo and the demographics of the district were shifting to the west side of the district. Buildings need improvements and the district has failed to pass a bond four times since 2008.
Citizens were allowed three minutes to comment during the hearing.
Art Tupper, a vocal opponent of the K-8 plan, asked the board several questions which the members wrote down to be answered later in the meeting. He wanted to know when the K-8 plan will be implemented. He also wanted to know if the portables have been purchased.
“What makes you so sure you are doing the right thing?” Tupper asked. “What makes you think you have all the answers?”
Later in the meeting, Glenewinkel said the district’s goal is to have everything implemented by the end of the next school year.
“The modular buildings have not been purchased,” Glenewinkel said.
Marvin Moore, a retired district employee, said he worried about land the district owns, such as the administration building. Moore said the building sits on property that may be of interest to other businesses. If the district offices were slated to move into East Valley Middle School, he wondered if the district was going to hang on to that land.
Glenewinkel confirmed the district plans to move the administration to East Valley Middle School, as well as the maintenance department, and sell the administration building.
“We can put adults in spaces that we can’t put children,” Glenewinkel said. Mountain View Middle School is now sitting empty as well, although there are no plans to sell it just yet. Glenewinkel said there have been talks about leasing it or converting it into a community sports complex.
Justin Volker, a parent of two students in the district, said he would like to encourage the district to put into place a strong operational plan for implementation.
Glenewinkel said one of the administrators at East Valley Middle School has been assigned to put a plan into place to integrate the programs for middle-school age students.
Kindergarten teacher Leslie McLaughlin said she felt having the sixth-graders at East Farms this year has been a great addition to the school. She said the staff has come together and discipline issues have been minimal. She enjoys seeing older students in the hallways she has known since they were in kindergarten.
“I know this is a really scary thing,” she said of the plan. “This has to happen for our students.”
“If we’re saving so much money, how come we’re broke?” one audience member asked. Glenewinkel said the district is not broke. He told them they have a cash reserve of 2.5 percent of the budget, there have been no staff cuts, the district doesn’t charge students for athletics and the high school’s Advanced Placement program is growing.
The board didn’t vote to accept the nonvoted debt Tuesday, but it did approve a resolution for a budget extension that will include the extra funds. They will vote on the funds at a future meeting.