Top stories of 2016: School district asks for, receives $70M (No. 6)
Editor’s note: The Summit Daily is counting down the top 10 stories of the year.
The Summit School District lodged a significant funding request of voters in two separate ballot questions this November and was emphatically rewarded with more than $70 million.
The local public school system initiated a master plan process this past spring to compile a list of its current assets and facility inadequacies, as well as analyze student population growth, to better understand its future needs. Results of the yearlong, community-wide exercise netted a decision by school leadership that the district required big dollars for capital construction and improvements, in addition to technology upgrades.
Citizens turned out going on two months ago, decisively backing the funding questions. The no-sunset mill levy, 3A, that provides $1.8 million each year passed with 58 percent approval, and 3B, a one-time bond measure of $68.9 million, also received endorsement by nearly 60 percent.
“This local taxpayer investment allows the district to take care of critical maintenance and facility needs without impacting the instructional resources needed to ensure that Summit continues to be one of the strongest school district in the state,” Margaret Carlson, Summit school board president, said in a statement on election night.
“Tonight’s election results prove what we’ve always known — Summit County residents value a high-quality public education system,” added superintendent Kerry Buhler. “These dollars will help us address building deficiencies, overcrowding in classrooms and further our goals for innovative instructional technology that ensures every student is well prepared for the demands of the 21st century.”
Year over year, enrollment numbers have shown to increase considerably with the start of each academic calendar. The district — which is comprised of six elementaries across the county, a middle school and Summit and Snowy Peaks high schools — experienced a whopping 5 percent growth for the 2015-16 school year. That tapered off to more manageable enlargement for the present school year, at 1.5 percent.
Still, more feet walking through those doors each day equates to a long-term need for addressing growth with expansion — both at existing buildings and possibly with the construction of new ones. On top of that, a new program this year at the heart of the district’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, One2World, extends a one-to-one, student-to-device ratio that demands millions in future investment to maintain.
“We’ve done well to help parents understand the value of using technology as part of learning experience,” district spokeswoman Julie McCluskie told the Daily in February. “Because of that, parents now understand the need to be able to have state-of-the-art technology so the students can access the information and experiences from around the world to enhance the learning in the classroom.”
Increasing school safety and ADA accessibility at each building also tops the list of likely projects. Additional classroom and cafeteria space at the middle and high schools, as well as a gym at the latter, are possibly in the works to help fend off overcrowding.
While the mill levy is ongoing, the bond money will have to be spent in the next three years and repaid over the next decade. The district also continues more master planning for its north and south ends of the county, looking at other needs including the viability of contributing to helping solve Summit’s active housing crisis to perhaps provide for eventual hires.
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