Bayless voters weigh two ballot measures

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By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor
news3@callnewspapers.com

Voters in the Bayless School District will weigh two ballot measures next week that the district promises will modernize its aging facilities and improve the quality of its education.

The Board of Education placed a 41-cent tax-rate increase for operations on the ballot along with a $10 million bond issue funded by a 34-cent tax-rate increase. If approved, the operating tax rate of the district would increase to $4.97 for residential property and 87 cents for debt service.

The operational increase needs a simple majority to pass, but the bond issue needs a four-sevenths majority.

Supporters of the measures are asking voters to “help build a better Bayless” by supporting Prop S, which would fund operations, and Prop A, the bond issue.

The district does not currently have a budget deficit or a budget crisis, but is seeking the tax hikes to build on its success, Superintendent Ronald Tucker said. Even as the number of non-native English speakers in the district has grown, the district has become one of the top-achieving districts in south county even as its percentage of non-native English speakers tops 50 percent of the student population and its teacher salaries have not always kept up with the marketplace, the superintendent said.

“We have done a really good job of managing the financial resources our community members have provided us,” Tucker said. “What we are really asking is from a position of strength. We have good things going on here, but we want to be able to provide opportunities and we want to make sure we can retain our faculty and staff.”

The district has seen students go to Harvard and other Ivy League schools.

“We’ve really created a real college-going culture where our kids are looking at furthering their education,” Tucker said. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done academically, and I think Bayless does surprise a lot of people in terms of our academic achievement. We’re wanting to continue that.”

The district has seen booming enrollment at Bayless Elementary School in recent years, which was addressed with a 2014 bond issue that connected the elementary school to Bayless Intermediate School. Another tax measure in 2012 restored bus service to the district.

But that wave of younger students is headed to the upper levels, Tucker noted.

Prop A, the $10 million bond issue, would fix longstanding issues with Bayless Junior High and Bayless High School, Tucker said.

The junior high was built for 250 students but currently has 400 students. Since the building has no cafeteria or library, students head to the high school no matter the weather for classes and lunch. At any given time, about half the junior high’s students are actually at the high school for class.

The students transition between buildings, but the movement between buildings also poses a security issue, Tucker said.

The junior high was originally built in 1934 as the district’s first high school, and it was originally intended to be expanded, Tucker said. The bond issue on the ballot would allow the district to fund 18 new classrooms at the junior high and a new library and cafeteria.