Mesa district defers bond election to focus on enrollment decline - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa district defers bond election to focus on enrollment decline

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Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 10:42 am | Updated: 7:17 pm, Wed Jun 29, 2011.

The Mesa school board has decided not to put a $250 million bond election on the November ballot, and has instead directed the superintendent to focus on consolidating and "repurposing" schools.

"We talked to different people in the community, the mayor's office, (the Arizona School Boards Association). Everyone agreed we're ahead of ourselves a little bit," Superintendent Mike Cowan told the Tribune.

That's because the district is just in the process of crafting a facilities plan to deal with declining enrollment, Cowan said. The governing board directed the superintendent and his staff last week to bring forth recommendations to make the best use of district resources as enrollment decreases. Plans may include closing schools, consolidating campuses or "repurposing" them to another use.

For several years, the district has seen its student count drop. Last year, more than 2,000 fewer students showed up than the year before. District administrators project another 2,800 decline by the time classes begin in August.

The district and governing board will explore putting the bond on the November 2012 ballot.

"This bond really is to address what we're going to do with facilities and the inclusion of technology as an innovative approach for instruction," Cowan said. "The idea is we will address these two issues dealing with the excess square footage we have and develop the technology plan. Then we can present those to the community."

Cowan said he hopes by August to bring forth the first recommendations regarding what to do with excess space in the district. There are more than 4,000 empty chairs in the junior high schools alone.

Board president Steve Peterson concurred with Cowan, saying the board may consider a bond election in the future.

"After visiting with various people both involved with elections and the city and the state, and knowing how much we have on our plate right now to figure out how to utilize our space, we've decided not to go forward with the bond election at this point," Peterson said. "If we go forward next year, it'll be a presidential election. There will be more people out voting. We'll get a better representation from Mesa."

There will also be more time to communicate why the bond is needed, Peterson said.

Proposed bond projects included technology and related infrastructure purchases, maintenance on school buildings and replacing older buses with energy-efficient, air-conditioned buses.


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