Summit Daily editorial: Strengthen our schools — vote yes on 3A and 3B
October 23, 2016
Despite all the challenges Summit County faces as a community — a housing crisis, a mental illness epidemic and rising health costs — we can rest assured that our public schools are a bright spot of success.
In state testing this year, Summit students scored in the upper tier of the state's 178 districts. The district continues to stand apart in its commitment to science, technology and math subjects, collectively known as STEM. And we have also seen firsthand, as parents with children in the district, that we are lucky to have so many dedicated, engaged and innovative educators.
That's why it is essential that we set the stage for future excellence and support two ballot questions that would provide the district with much-needed funding.
To be clear, the district is facing challenges of its own.
School infrastructure is aging and fast becoming inadequate for a growing student population. Enrollment projections show the student body outgrowing all facilities by 2022.
Over the past five years, enrollment in Summit School District has grown twice as fast as Summit County. Summit High School, which taught 937 students in 2016, is projected to reach 1,183 by 2020.
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Summit Middle School is projected to reach its capacity by 2017 and the high school by 2018. Dillon Valley, Frisco and Breckenridge elementaries will reach their capacities by 2020. All the district's schools are projected to spill over by 2022.
"It's not just about growth that will be coming to our schools, but it's about the growth that's already here," superintendent Kerry Buhler explained in September. "They're feeling the pinch already, the high school especially, but the middle school also. Within two years, we will be over capacity in those buildings."
Clearly, students need space to learn. The last thing we want are sardine-can classrooms. However, the district is looking to provide far more than just roomier facilities. Officials are also hoping to build classrooms of the future, ones equipped with new technology that enables media-rich collaborative learning environments.
We strongly encourage you to continue a tradition of excellence in our schools by supporting 3A (a $1.8 million mill levy) and 3B (a $68.9 million bond).
The mill levy is intended for capital construction projects, maintenance and instructional technology. It's expected to generate an estimated $1.8 million annually.
The bond proposal is for a one-time $68.9 million amount. It would be spent over the next three years to address a host of issues, including adding classrooms and cafeteria space at the middle school and high school. It would also go toward increasing school safety and ADA accessibility at each of the district's buildings.
The tax impact of all this is minimal to the average taxpayer, the price of a Starbucks purchase twice a month. That's approximately $7 each month for every $500,000 of assessed property value. The returns on that investment could be priceless.
We believe the school district has demonstrated that this isn't an over-reaching wish list, but a prudent request for essential funding. The district could have asked for more — polling data suggested a larger financial ask of nearly $100 million could have passed — but it trimmed the list down anyway.
"We did cut it back," said Buhler, "because we know that we would need to spend that money within three years, and wanted to be as responsible as possible with what we asked for, and what we knew we could plan for and spend in that short amount of time. So we settled on what we really, really needed, which ended up being that $68.9 million."
We think the district — and its hard-working students and teachers — have earned your support. Vote yes.
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