Mesa school district starts planning how to use bond funds - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Mesa school district starts planning how to use bond funds

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 10:00 am

Mesa students will see new computers, Dobson High School will get new classrooms, and the district’s transportation centers will be rebuilt after voters approved a $230 million bond program Nov. 6.

By a 3-to-1 margin, voters gave the Mesa Unified School District permission to sell the bonds, which could impact property tax rates.

The district’s assistant superintendent for business and support services, Bobette Sylvester, said the first sale – for about $46 million - will likely happen about April.

“We will sell them over a seven-year period,” she said.

Each sale will give the district dollars to spend. Bond money can only be used on construction, building issues and repairs, and capital expenses like technology.

“The first project we’ll put out is to demolish Mesa Junior High to hold our commitment to not leave that building closed,” Sylvester said.

Mesa Junior High School closed in May as part of the district’s plans to address low enrollment and funding issues. Students were moved to surrounding junior high schools.

The district and city put forth a plan to create a youth sports site on the Mesa Junior High grounds. The city’s $70 million bond package – also approved by voters – includes funding to create the playing fields.

Sylvester said the district hopes to demolish the buildings in the spring or summer 2013 at the latest.

After demolition, the focus will go to building on a few high school campuses. Three years ago the district started moving ninth-graders from the junior high schools to the high schools.

“We’re also moving forward with some design work for a new building at Dobson to replace portable classrooms that need to be removed,” she said.

The district in the future will also look at how it wants to address aging buildings and space issues at Westwood High School, she said.

As far as the technology piece of the bond, Sylvester said she’s trying to coordinate a way to bring together community members, parents, teachers and staff to decide how best to bring the district up to speed. It may be a committee or town hall presentations, she said.

The district has already upgraded computers using funds given to its Title I – or lower socioeconomic -- schools. Just recently, about 100 computers with upgraded memory were given to the high schools.

But the district really needs to come up with a plan to efficiently connect many more classrooms – and many more computers – to the Internet to allow teachers to individualize instruction through blended learning.

“We’ve done some work on what the 21st Century classroom looks like, but we want to make sure (to) talk about how to bring that technology in and what technology citizenship looks like,” she said.

The district will also use funds to fix or replace HVAC, roofing and carpeting around the 200-square mile district.

Unused portable buildings around the district will also be removed and sold or demolished, she said.

Not everything will happen at once, for a number of reasons, she said. Not only is the district limited legally on how much outstanding debt it can have, but the district’s board has said it wants to be careful not to put too much burden at one time on taxpayers.

Plus, she added, it takes a lot of manpower to make every project happen.

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