The Dolores RE-4A school district has released data from surveys about a potential bond in November that would help pay for the new high school and renovations to other school buildings in the district after the school is approved for the Building Excellent Schools Today grant.
The district received strong support for the bond, according to the surveys.
Earlier this year, the district provided plans for Phase 1 of its building project and informed the public of their application to the BEST grant board. If approved, the district would have been able to move forward with its tentative plan to begin Phase 1 of the building project in 2024.
The school was not approved for the BEST grant this year, however, and Superintendent Reece Blincoe told The Journal that the district will apply again next year once the application opens for 2024.
“We didn’t get it this year, but we will be applying again in January,” Blincoe said.
In the meantime, the district remains proactive. They sent surveys to the community regarding a potential bond on the November ballot. The survey was sent to 1,887 households in the district to gain an understanding of where the community stood as far as the new school and Phase 1 is concerned.
The surveys could be done online or in paper form, and they gave citizens an update on the district facility master plan, campus priorities, BEST grant efforts and the bond proposal. The surveys also asked respondents to give a letter-grade rating of the district.
As of June 20, 225 surveys had been filled out and turned in to the district, and 65 responded to the section that included open-ended questions.
The largest age group to fill out the survey was people age 45-54, second was 35-44, and third was 55-64. The lowest demographic was those age 18-34.
Overall, there was strong support for the bond, with 65.39% saying they would vote in favor, 27.47% said no, and 7.14% said they were unsure.
The question posed to respondents was, “Shall Dolores RE-4A debt be increased by $13 million, with a repayment cost of up to $26 million, and shall district taxes be increased up to $1.2 million annually by the issuance and payment of general obligation bonds to provide local matching money requirements for the district to receive a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant …”
According to the district’s presentation, the BEST grant and bond, if passed, would cover building and equipping a new high school, which would include an agriculture science lab, secure common area, covered access and double vestibule entrances.
It also would help cover renovating the existing high school for the middle school, making more secure classrooms, new bus loop, flood mitigation, covered bus entrance, HVAC systems, demolishing the current middle school, constructing a more secure playground space and ensuring that all buildings comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Those who answered no or unsure were asked why they answered that way. In that grouping 28% of respondents said they were concerned about district priorities, and 18.75% said answered “Other.”
In the question box for other, respondents noted that they wished the school could be moved out of the flood plain entirely, while another wanted to know the tax increase per household.
Another answer said they wished the money would be spent on keeping and recruiting teachers rather than a new building.
Superintendent Blincoe also shared that the district would address concerns about the bond or new school, in general, to help unite the community regarding phase one of the new school.
“We will be able to address these concerns,” he said.
The survey also asked the community which element would be most important to voters on the ballot in regard to the bond, and the top three issues were mitigating flood and repair issues, making safety and security improvements and fixing maintenance issues, including HVAC.
Nearly 40% said they’d be more likely to vote for the bond if the district responded to community feedback and kept the school buildings in town.
Further, 47.54% said they’d be more likely to vote yes if safety and security were improved and if operating expenses were reduced by improved facilities, and 50.82% said they’d vote yes if the bond would help the school’s application for the BEST grant.
According to the data, there are 2,718 registered voters in the district and 1,883 voted in the 2022 election.