Hancock bond issue ‘Proposition R’ focuses on safety

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Voters in the Hancock Place School District will weigh in Tuesday, April 6 whether to fund facility improvements, including safety and security upgrades, through a $13.25 million no-tax-rate-increase bond issue.

If passed, Proposition R for “Replace, Renovate, Redesign,” will fund facility improvements at the district’s elementary, middle and high schools, as well as its preschool and administrative building.

The Hancock Place Board of Education voted unanimously 7-0 last December to place the no-tax-rate-increase general-obligation bond on the upcoming ballot.

Because Prop R is a no-tax-rate-increase measure, the district’s debt service levy will remain unchanged at $1.22 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Superintendent Kevin Carl said that facility projects in the district have been identified over the course of several years and include feedback from the Facility Committee, district staff and administration, along with the community.

The bulk of the bond is focused on improving safety and security at all facilities, including renovating the district’s secure entry vestibules for added safety, installing universal key lock systems throughout the district, converting all exterior doors to an electronic entry system and renovating the intercom communications system.

Voters in Hancock last passed a bond issue in 2011.

At Hancock Elementary, classroom doors are also slated to be replaced for ones that are sturdier.

“We want to make sure that our facility is as safe as possible, that the people coming into our building are the ones that we want to come into the building … We’re also excited about new classroom doors — make those stronger so that teachers can easily close those in case of an emergency or something like that,” said Hancock Elementary Principal Jill Wright in a video about Prop R released by the district.

The elementary school will also have a new library media center, as well as a parking lot overlay to help with student pick-up and drop-off traffic flow — an improvement that will be made at every facility.

“One of the best things … is that we are going to be improving our parking lots and dismissal procedures. We’re going to have wider spaces and more room for car rider dismissals,” said Wright. “If you’re a parent who uses the car rider pick-up for your student, you’re going to love that because that means less waiting time.”

The ballot measure also addresses infrastructure issues districtwide, like replacing the HVAC units at Hancock Middle School and the Hancock Early Childhood Center, replacing the middle school roof and replacing the elementary school water heater.

“We’ve been having problems with our heating and cooling and our roof leaking for several years, and it only gets worse. We have to move classes to other classrooms because classrooms get too cold … or too hot … and we even have to move them when the ceiling tiles have water leaking from them,” said Tom Dittrich, Hancock Middle School principal. “It’s very important that we’re able to fix these problems so that our students can learn, our teachers can teach and so that we can be proud of the opportunities and the facilities that we offer.”

In addition to the infrastructure and security updates, the measure also renovates the district’s extracurricular and athletic facilities, like a new elementary gym, secondary common space of physical education classes, a new playground surface at the Early Childhood Center and renovations at Heine Meine Baseball Field.

“With Heine Meine Field, it’s going to provide that safe and wholesome outlet for families to congregate there and watch soccer games and baseball games and all of those things,” said Hancock High School Principal Shelly Vogler, adding that Prop R was also important to the high school because of the safety upgrades.

“Proposition R will mean so much … for the safety and structure of our school with all of the access points that we have here,” said Vogler. “This will provide a safe environment for our community, for our kiddos, for our teachers and our families.”

Other items covered by Proposition R are a new retaining wall at the elementary school driveway entrance and a new retaining wall behind the middle and high school.

“I’m pleased that our financial position here at Hancock Place is stable and strong and that we able to add and improve our facilities for all Hancock Place students,” said Carl.

Because it is a general-obligation bond issue, the ballot measure requires four-sevenths or 57.14-percent voter approval to pass. Hancock’s most recent bond, Proposition P, a $15 million no-tax-rate-increase measure, passed in April 2011 with 75.36-percent voter approval, compared to 24.36 percent who voted against it.

In late November and December last year, the district along with Patron Insight, a school market researcher, conducted a phone survey of 200 frequent voters living within the district’s boundaries. The survey gathered information about the community’s overall attitude toward the district and whether or not they would be likely to vote positively for a bond measure in April.

According to the results of the survey, “the mood of the community regarding the district itself is positive” and 74 percent said they would “favor” or “strongly favor” a no-tax-rate-increase bond measure on the April 2021 ballot.