School the Polls
by Kathy Rose
As the summer winds down and parents think about the kids going back to school, citizens need to educate themselves and go back to the polls August 30th for the Lake Pend Oreille School District Plant Levy.
This plant levy is for more than $55 million, over 6 years. If passed it will more than double the present school tax which is the supplemental levy approved in March 2015. The school district is trying to convince taxpayers that several schools have been allowed to deteriorate to a point when it is necessary to rebuild them, at the same time. How could this have happened under the watch of the school board and the highly paid administrators? It can only be explained by mismanagement.
Truth be known, there are no buildings out of compliance or “substandard”. Are there necessary upgrades – most definitely. Teater Consulting inspected every building and reported their recommendations. They rated each building’s functionality and adequacy to provide a data based analysis. They also provided comments on the specific areas of concern.
LPOSD handpicked a Facilities Planning Committee that met in secret numerous times. There were no public meetings and no minutes to record their actions. Thirteen members were described as a cross section of the community: the Superintendent, the CFO, the Facilities Director, the Director of Technology, two school board trustees, one former board trustee, one teacher, two members associated with the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency, the Mayor of Sandpoint, and three of these members had ties to the Panhandle Alliance for Education. Do you see anyone representing the taxpayer?
The original recommendation listed the Alternative High School (LPOHS) rated as the 2nd worst building and recommended replacement of it. It was discovered that the district considered rebuilding LPOHS in 2012 and let it slide. The present school board decided to kick it down the road again. One has to ask why the oldest building, which is over capacity and has to utilize six portable classrooms, is deemed good enough to wait another six years.
The original recommendation by the consultant and the committee did not take into consideration over $2 million that would be necessary for the high school campus. Sandpoint High uses four portable classrooms that would be in the way of the middle school construction. The high school would need to have an addition of four classrooms, as well as rebuilding the 5 athletic fields.
Just a couple of years back, Northside Elementary was rated 34 out of 70,000 elementary schools in the country. It also awarded other accolades, statewide. Is it really necessary to tear down and rebuild it?
Washington Elementary will have the main building rebuilt. There is no decision on how to house the students during construction.
Clark Fork will be having the shop upgraded. A woodshop, a commercial kitchen, classrooms…no details have been discussed.
The district has 11 school buildings and no long term plan to address capital improvements. Instead, it chooses to wait until it becomes a burden to the tax payers. A one-school-at-a-time policy is responsible, sustainable, and respecting of those who are asked to fund it. LPOSD Board needs to be a responsible role model for the children.