The Salt Lake Board of Education likely will set a May 1999 date to ask voters to OK bonds to air-condition schools and expedite seismic retrofit plans.
The amount of the bond proposal has not been pinned down, although previous talks centered on $90 million and no new taxes. But the amount may depend on whether the board decides to build elementary schools as part of talks to reduce elementary school size.The school board hopes to stagger its bond election from city efforts to borrow money for library improvements, set for an Aug. 4 election. Unaware of that date, the board last week gave a tentative nod to consider a bond timeline, with a May 4, 1999, election date, proposed by Superintendent Dar-line Robles.
The bonds would allow retrofits to be completed in 10 years and air-condition all schools in eight years. Next year's proposed budget allots $8.2 million to cool East, Highland and West high schools, possibly by spring, with money set aside over the past two years.
In 1993, voters approved $70 million in bonds to seismically retrofit schools by 2020. The $30 million in untouched bonds is ex-pec-ted to stretch another three years under the expedited plan.
Nine of 36 district schools and district offices are air-conditioned. The heat issue boiled last fall when the mercury licked at the 100-degree mark in some schools, making some teachers and students sick.
The new bonding timeline may be tweaked as seen fit.
"No battle was ever won without a plan, but no battle was ever won according to plan," said board member Cliff Higbee. "This is a lot of money. We've got to have our ducks in a line."
That means the school board would have to quickly decide the future size of schools - an issue it has wrangled with for several months. Schools in east Salt Lake are half empty while those to the west are bursting at the seams.
The board has narrowed possible solutions to a combination of two, both calling for 400 to 600 students per school and spending nearly $9 million on a new elementary school in the northwest area.
One option would spend an extra $19.5 million to double capacity of two elementary schools, allowing them to house two schools, or 1,000 students, in one. That option also would close Beacon Heights, Dilworth or Rosslyn Heights in southeastern Salt Lake City.
A second option would require more than 200 students change schools. But it calls for no school, which the school board likes. "It is no small deal to move families," said board member Kathy Black.
While some school board members called a double school "inhumane," school board President Karen Derrick asked for more information on the matter.