Voters will decide bond or no bond Tuesday

Broken Bow Public Schools staff and administration once again hosted an Open House at North Park school Tuesday, to give citizens the opportunity to walk through the school, hear about the proposed building project and have any questions they may have answered. This open house, however, was a little different than last week’s, in that this one was held during school hours. Elementary Principal Kim Jonas and Superintendent Virginia Moon felt it was important to allow the public to see what they have been talking about concerning issues with the lunchroom, first hand. Right now the cafeteria is being utilized as a lunch room, gym for P.E. and music room. The extra activities in the cafeteria, administrators explain, limits the amount of space that can actually be used for lunch. With the large class sizes, only one class at a time can be served, and the tables and floors must be quickly cleaned up for the next group. Jonas says the school has already shortened the times for P.E., music and lunch as much as can be and still remain accredited. According to Jonas, the plan for the lunch room includes replacing the wall tables with round tables. This would allow the entire floor space of the room to be used and would be more functional for school staff to get around and help the students, especially the younger ones. That is not the issues itself so much, as the fact that only a short amount of time is allowed to feed all the students and clean up after them so music or P.E. can begin. Assistant elementary principal Kirk Crawley explains that with a new multi-purpose room, some students could be having P.E. or music while others are eating lunch. This rotation would not only create more available space in the lunchroom and help with crowding, but also lengthen the amount of time the kids actually have to eat. As Crawley explained while conducting a tour during the open house Tuesday, “every inch of space in the building is being utilized.” What used to be the music room is now the computer lab/media room and individualized learning room. The project which district patrons will vote on next Tuesday calls for the addition of eight new classrooms. However, Jonas reminds the public that four of those classrooms will absorb classes already in use in the two portables. Kindergarten and first grade would be housed in the new addition, which will also include a media center, multi-purpose room, special ed room and administrative offices. The main entrance of the building would be moved to the east of its current location, and visitors into the building would have to come through the front office to access the building. The multi-purpose room would be accessible for uses such as sports practices, without those individuals having access to the rest of the building as the hallways would be blocked off. Restrooms would still be available for use with the multi-purpose room. Kindergarten through 4th grade would be housed at North Park, while Custer would accommodate grades 5 and 6. The kindergarten and first grade rooms will include “break out areas”, which are used to provide more individualized attention to students. That space is now located behind the computer lab, on what was once the stage, in the far southwest corner of the building. Crawley explains that teachers lose valuable instruction time just getting their students to and from that area, and from a teachers perspective notes how nice it would be to have that space right around the corner of the classroom. The tours at North Park were designed to give the public the opportunity to see for themselves the space challenges that school staff say they have been dealing with for the past few years. Porches have been enclosed and storage areas transformed in an effort to utilize more space for classes. And by all accounts the issue is not going away any time soon. According to 2010 U.S. Census figures, while Custer County as a whole showed a slight decline in population, the city of Broken Bow actually showed an increase of nearly 2 percent over the past decade, from 3,491 residents in 2000 to 3,559 in 2010. Jonas also notes that preliminary figures, taken from local pre-schools and other sources, continue to show higher number for incoming classes over the next 5-10 years. Some of the classrooms in the addition will be designed with retractable walls to allow those spaces to be made larger in the event of a bigger class coming through in the future. “Education is meeting the needs of the individual students. And you have to have space for that,” said Crawley. The bond itself is for a total of $5.83 million, which is the amount of low-interest financing available to the district. This would be a 15-year bond, with a net interest rate of less than 1 percent. These funds are not available to the district after 2011. The school district valuation was certified Aug. 20, 2011, and current interest rates are now lower than previously reported. This information was adjusted by the bonding agent Aug. 24 to reflect the project requiring an 8.76 cent levy. That means if you have $100,000 worth of property, the projected annual tax bill for this project would be $87.60, or $7.30 a month. If your property is valued at $50,000 your bill for the project would be $43.80, or $3.65 a month. The special election to decide yes or no on the bond proposal will be next Tuesday, Sept. 13. ALL registered voters will cast their ballots at the Municipal Auditorium, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Absentee ballots are now available, and are due back to the County Clerk’s office at the Courthouse by 8 p.m. Sept. 13. Absentee ballots may not be dropped off at the Municipal Auditorium. Should the bond pass, construction on the project is expected to begin in March or April of 2012, and is a 14-month project. Mark Lewis with BD Construction, construction managers at risk for the project, has assured the public that safety will be a top priority for the project with young students in such close proximity. A 6-8 foot fence will be erected around the site while construction is going on. If you still have last minute questions before going to the polls, feel free to contact Dr. Virginia Moon at 872-6821, or visit the school’s website at