School board ponders bond, option levy in 2014

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 22, 2013 01:00 pm

by Dick Mason/The Observer

The La Grande School District may ask voters to approve a bond or option levy tax as early as 2014. 

The La Grande School Board agreed by consensus at a work session Wednesday to have Superintendent Larry Glaze create a committee to establish time frames for a possible bond or option levy election. The time frames will be for two years and an election in 2014. They will outline the schedules the school district would follow to pursue a bond or option levy.

The time frames will be presented later to the school board. The board will next begin deciding whether to pursue a bond or option levy and if so when and for how much. Funds from a bond or option levy would cover building maintenance work, which has been deferred for years and possibly the construction of new kindergarten classrooms. 

Additional kindergarten classrooms would soon fill an important need because the state will begin providing funding for full day kindergarten in 2015-16. The state will provide the funding needed for the extra teachers schools will need but not the additional space required. 

The La Grande School District, which now offers half-day kindergarten, does not have the room needed to provide full-day kindergarten, which will be optional, Glaze said. 

Studies show that full-day kindergarten boosts student achievement. Glaze said student academic success is what needs to be emphasized if the school district does launch a campaign for a bond or option levy. 

“People do not want to know about how (a bond or option levy) will help buildings, they want to know how it will help student achievement,” Glaze said.

The committee, which will establish recommended time frames for a bond or option levy, will be comprised of Glaze, Chris Panike, the La Grande School District’s business and plant operations director, and Scott Rogers and Casey White-Zollman of the InterMountain Education Service District.

Rogers and Zollman spoke to the board about steps the La Grande School Board should take if it decides to pursue an option levy or bond. 

Zollman emphasized the importance of making sure that the school district’s classified staff, including its custodial employees, are well informed about the details of an option levy or bond.

“They are who people turn to for information on a bond,” Zollman said. “They should be ready when people ask them questions in the checkout line at Safeway.”

The school district last pursued an option levy in 2011 and a bond levy in 2008, both of which were rejected by voters. 

Board member Merle Comfort said it will be important, if a bond or option levy is pursed again to reach as many different elements of the district’s constituency possible.

“Hopefully we can engage a different segment that wasn’t engaged last time,” Comfort said.