Our View: A Colorado Community Media editorial

Editorial: Cast a vote for the future of our schools

Posted 10/16/18

The price tag to install an elevator at Newton Middle School — which would shorten the 20 minutes it now takes a wheelchair-bound student to get to the second floor using lifts — comes in at $1 …

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Our View: A Colorado Community Media editorial

Editorial: Cast a vote for the future of our schools

Posted

The price tag to install an elevator at Newton Middle School — which would shorten the 20 minutes it now takes a wheelchair-bound student to get to the second floor using lifts — comes in at $1 million.

But to make the west Centennial school completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act — and remove asbestos still lingering in the school — would cost about $20 million, Littleton Public Schools officials say.

Which is why they say it makes more sense to construct a new Newton, which would cost the district about $75 million.

The proposal is part of Littleton Public Schools’ $298 million bond request that not only would renovate aging buildings but also provide new spaces to meet evolving educational needs of the future.

This is LPS’ largest bond request, more than triple the amount of the last bond, an $80 million measure passed in 2013 to maintain and repair aging facilities and improve safety and security. It also is the first that will directly increase taxes. Former bond measures have replaced expiring debts, so residents did not see any increases in taxes.

But the district has made a compelling argument for Bond Issue 4A to ensure continued quality education for its students — and we support its vision for the future.

That means, if passed, the owner of a home valued at $500,000 would pay $145 to $245 more in property taxes a year. Monthly, the amount breaks down to $29 to $49. The range is due to some unknown factors, school officials say: the outcome of Amendment 73 — a state ballot measure that would generate public school revenue primarily by increasing personal taxes on those with higher incomes — and whether the district decides to obtain the bonds all at once or split them into two segments.

There’s no question: The district is growing old.

The average age of its buildings is 58 years and much of their structural integrity is diminishing, school officials say. Going forward, to maintain an average age of 62 years, the district would need to replace a school every three years, according to the citizen-based Long Range Planning Committee. This would be the first time since 1981 that new schools are built.

The district also needs new spaces to meet evolving learning and teaching programs. It must find ways to decrease or eliminate the busing of elementary students across the district. It must figure out how to accommodate the growing activities in music and sports — particularly in girls sports — that make it increasingly difficult to schedule time at the district’s lone stadium.

“While we’re not growing in terms of enrollment,” Superintendent Brian Ewert said, “we do need new spaces for new programs.”

One of the most exciting possibilities the bond would help realize is the creation of a new Career and Technical Education and Innovation Center on property the district has already purchased behind the old Schomp Automotive, now the Tesla dealership, and across from Littleton High School.

Essentially a large vocational training and trade school, it would provide students with work-based and real-life learning, certifications and apprenticeships to meet a much-needed and growing demand from business leaders.

Communities in the district have historically supported their schools: Voters have approved all six of the district’s previous requested bond and mill levies, dating back to 1988.

“We’re building a legacy for the future,” Ewert said. “In the 1950s and 1960s, someone did this for us. Are we going to do it for them? Are we going to set the stage for future generations?”

We urge voters to say yes.

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