Archive for Thursday, September 20, 2001

School bond issue ‘right on schedule’

1992 board had planned for new bond by now

September 20, 2001

When the last school bond issue passed in 1992, everything seemed to fall in place, said Pennie von Achen.

As a school board member in 1990, von Achen saw a $4 million bond fail. As board president in 1992, she saw a $6 million bond pass.

This November, a $16 million bond to finance a new high school will go before voters, but von Achen isn't surprised about the need.

"We are right on target of where we thought we'd be in '92," she said. "We knew it would be about five years."

From what she's heard in terms of support from the community , von Achen said she assumes this bond will pass.

In 1990, it was a different story. The school had tossed around the idea of a new high school for quite some time, but the last bond for the Nottingham Elementary School addition was 20 years old.

"I would say there was a vocal minority," von Achen said. "I think part of its problem was when the fire marshal condemned the old building. Nobody wants to have their old alma mater come down. But you don't want to put kids in an unsafe building."

Then-Superintendent Dan Bloom described the atmosphere after the bond failed as "a nasty, ugly feeling."

By 1992, things had changed.

Thirty percent of Eudora students were in modular classrooms. In fact, von Achen's daughter had a T-shirt that read "Eudora Mobile High School." Kindergarten classes were conducted at Holy Family Catholic Church.

The state had just enacted a finance reform bill that sought to equalize funding between poor districts, like Eudora, and wealthier ones. The mill levy had dropped from 26 in 1990 to 17 in 1992.

"It was unbelievably good timing for us because the state financed 39 percent of the building," von Achen said. "I don't know if people realize what a deal the building was."

Enrollment was up, and costs were just slightly more.

"You didn't have the discussion of razing an old, beloved landmark," von Achen said.

The bond passed by a 2-1 margin.

"Six million, or even $4 million, doesn't seem like a lot now; but to the community it did," von Achen said.

She also credits the bond committee at the time, headed by Leo Lauber, with passing the bond.

"That really helps (when others) do their part because other people realize that it's not just something the district's trying to support," she said.

The community has changed over the years, von Achen said, and that means more people to whom education is a top priority, and not just younger folks with school-age children, either.

"There were a lot of people at Pinecrest (retirement apartments) in full support of the bond issue," von Achen said. "I've heard somebody say, 'There's someone who paid for my education and my children's education, and now it's my turn to pay.'"

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