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Dallas School Board reacts to bond levy defeat

DALLAS -- The Dallas School District construction bond was defeated on Election Day, and now the school board will let the air settle before developing in January a new plan to deal with overcrowding

DALLAS -- The Dallas School District construction bond was defeated on Election Day, and now the school board will let the air settle before developing in January a new plan to deal with overcrowding in schools.

The $79.5 million bond failed by a 2-to-1 margin, but the board and teachers remain concerned about the lack of space in classrooms.

"Not only is the physical space an enormous problem, but there's this weight on your shoulders," Heather Anderson, an Oakdale Heights first-grade teacher, said as she began to tear up during Monday night's school board meeting. "I go home and I feel like I don't touch all of my kids in a day. But it hurts because I want to teach every single one of them and I can't."

Dallas School District enrollment numbers as of November 2008 show all district schools except Lyle Elementary at or over capacity.

The bond would have built a new high school, the current high school would have become a middle school, and the current middle school would have become a fourth elementary school.

The $79.5 million amount would have covered the purchase of the potential high school site, cost of building, and renovations to all schools in the district to create more elbow room.

"Those of us with first, second and kindergartners, those numbers feel like double of what they are," Anderson said. "No teacher, no matter how fabulous they are, can have a functioning classroom."

Board Member Michael Bollman said the board needs to take some time to figure out why so many members of the community voted against the measure. He then suggested that the district's facilities committee return in January and evaluate whether building a new high school is still the best option to relieve overcrowding.

"I think we have to seriously look at the whole situation," said Susan Humphrey, president of the school board, said. "I was looking at the (Oregon School Board Association) web site and there were a lot of bonds that did not pass, but ours received the lowest approval."

The poor state of the economy was identified by the board and the audience members as a contributing factor in the bond's defeat.

"Like I said from the first meeting you conducted, this is not the time in the economy," community member James Allgood said. "(Barack) Obama said during his campaign that these are the worst economic times since the Great Depression, and I really believe it."

Obtaining the property for the potential high school at Fir Villa Road and Ellendale Avenue was contingent on the bond passing, Superintendent Christy Perry said. If there was money to purchase the property in the future, it would take a second referendum to make the purchase.

If another bond measure is unable to win voter approval -- it could be presented for a vote in May 2009 -- Perry said the district will squeeze as much money out of its general fund as it can, and will probably have to alternate spending to build new modulars and hire new teachers. However, she said the schools will continue to see more kids and the board will have to come back to the community for funding in the future despite the modulars.

Some members of the audience believed the school board did not include the community enough in the process of planning how to deal with the overcrowding. However, the members of the board said the public was involved in designing the charettes and public information meetings along the way.

"We had a large number of public meetings and there were many opportunities for the community to get involved if they chose to," Humphrey said.

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