Summit School District board: Why 3A and 3B matter
The last few years have been extraordinary for Summit School District. The district performs in the top 10 percent of the 179 school districts in Colorado, and our high school graduation rate of 94 percent is one of the highest in the state. We’re incredibly proud of our award-winning schools, and are privileged to continue the work building strong schools to support our strong community.
Earlier this summer the Summit School District Board of Education met to consider financing options for the 2016-17 school year, and beyond. The discussion came on the heels of a year-long analysis and evaluation of our existing schools’ condition, coupled with an examination of what education may look like five years, and further, down the road. We conducted meetings in every school and throughout the community to roll out the data on the condition of our facilities, anticipated district growth and incredible classroom innovations occurring on a regular basis. We then asked what you thought about all of this — either in person, by mail or on the telephone. Thank you to everyone who expressed an opinion, they ran the gamut. Still, themes emerged. Make sure our students are ready for the next step, whether it’s college or a job. Keep our kids safe. Keep pace with technology and innovation. Use our money wisely.
The survey results confirmed what we know and appreciate. Summit residents value quality education, from the highly educated and skilled retirees who call Summit home to recent immigrants who only want a better life for their kids. The passion is uniquely similar, arising out of a simple understanding that strong, high quality schools help our community thrive, and protect and improve property values.
So, just what is needed to ensure a bright future for Summit students?
Through the district master planning process we identified several bricks-and-mortar needs. Summit, like a many school districts throughout the state has forgone asking taxpayers to fund upgrades and long-term maintenance in recent years, recognizing times have not been easy for our population. As a result Summit’s mil rate for schools is one of the lowest in the state (approximately 20 mils compared to the State average of 37 mils). Our teachers still manage to do amazing things with the classroom resources provided, making sure Summit kids walk out the door with a solid educational foundation. We must now turn our focus to shoring up our facilities’ foundations.
The “new” high school just celebrated its 20th birthday. When built, the district recognized additional classrooms would be needed when the school reached capacity. It is already there — try to navigate a high school hallway during any passing period and it is uncomfortably evident. Our middle school, that also houses an amazing high school alternative thanks to the visionary work of staff, also is at the population tipping point. All around us we see measures to create community, everything from workforce housing to the efforts that have resulted in Summit being a premier resort destination, employing hundreds of workers. We have built it and people have come, usually with kids, all in need of an education.
Our facilities, not unlike workplaces throughout the country, also require upgrades to function in the information age. Our buildings need the updates to keep pace with the instructional technology opportunities of a 21st century classroom.
Learning is tempered by the stark reality our students must be safe. School entries and access points require additional security. We have learned that even in a place where horrors could never happen, they sometimes do. We want to make sure no tragedy strikes Summit.
While much of the community expressed support for a $97 million bond measure for capital needs, we have pared it back to $68 million, identified as Ballot Measure 3B. Still, it is a lot of money. It will address critical capital needs to take care of aging facilities, give our students room to learn, shore up safety, security and emergency response systems and improve building access for students, staff and visitors with disabilities. By law, the bond revenues must go toward capital needs.
Measure 3A stems from the General Assembly’s recognition this year that a funding mechanism is important to avoid the scrambling districts throughout the state are doing to address ongoing capital and technology needs. Ballot Measure 3A is intended to establish a supplemental construction, technology, and maintenance fund. This measure dovetails perfectly with the district’s desire to stay ahead of building maintenance, and keep our existing buildings in good condition instead of reacting when costly repairs are needed. It also will help us offer more opportunities for online research and collaboration, preparing students for college and the workforce. This fund is mandated by law to fund the hard cost of capital, technology, and maintenance. This is a degree of accountability we think important in the Summit community.
The board recognizes there will be questions, and that Summit residents will not be satisfied with pat answers. We welcome all viewpoints, and want to provide information to make this important decision. Links below help with an understanding of questions already received, like why marijuana taxes do not solve the state’s education funding issues, or just where the money raised will be spent. The actual impact is a question we can answer. For an average home value of $500,000, the tax impact from both measures together would be less than $82 annually. If the measures pass we will work hard to make sure the money is well spent.
Summit is a community that cares. We are grateful to our supporters, particularly Breckenridge Grand Vacations, Vail Resorts, Copper Mountain Resort, Breckenridge Restaurant Association, Wold Architects & Engineers and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area for their generous contributions to our campaign. To the many voices that have endorsed our effort, we thank you — The Summit Foundation, Family Intercultural Resource Center, Early Childhood Options, Summit County Education Association, local Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s), Summit County Government and our local towns. And to the many individuals who have donated and given of their time and talent — we are grateful.
We work hard to protect the natural beauty that surrounds us, grow a thriving arts culture and create a community that supports all of our residents. We urge you to vote yes on Ballot Measures 3A and 3B to continue the work that has gone into creating our highly ranked and respected public school system, and to keep our schools, and our youngest residents thriving and strong.
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