Lindbergh board to consider placing bond issue before voters

Superintendent recommends to board proposed bond issue be called Prop R

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Lindbergh Board of Education is scheduled to consider next week whether to place a $31 million bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot to fund a long-term solution to ease space concerns at Sperreng Middle School.

The Board of Education will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, in the boardroom of the Administration Building, 4900 S. Lindbergh Blvd., to conduct a public hearing on the district’s proposed 2008-2009 tax rate. The board’s regular monthly meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.

During a work session last week, board members agreed by consensus to proceed with plans to take final action Aug. 19 to place the no-tax-rate-increase bond issue on the November ballot. A four-sevenths majority would be required to approve the measure, which would not increase the district’s debt-service tax rate but extend the current rate of 38 cents an additional five years, according to Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane.

As proposed, the district would pursue an option to ease space concerns at Sperreng that was identified as the clear favorite in a recent telephone survey of district residents.

That proposal would retain Sperreng as a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, convert Truman Elementary School to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school, add onto Crestwood and Long elementary schools, convert Concord School to an elementary school and either construct or buy a new building to relocate the district’s early childhood education, or ECE, program from Concord School. The estimated cost, including projects identified as critical by district officials and proposed security projects, is nearly $31 million.

The board voted unanimously in October to establish a Demographic Task Force comprised of parents, residents and staff members to recommend long-term options to ad-dress space concerns at Sperreng, which last year had an enrollment of 1,321 pupils while the ideal size for a middle school serving grades six through eight is 600 to 800 pupils.

The 53-member task force formulated six options, which school-board members later whittled down to three choices, including the one favored by the survey respondents.

At the Aug. 7 work session, board Treasurer Mark Rudoff asked administrators if they were comfortable with the option being pursued.

“… My concern is that as we move forward we have addressed all of the foreseeable issues that you know so that when this project is complete we will have requisite space to house all of the students in the district based upon our present demographic projections,” he said. “I guess my question is are you comfortable with — not only with the studies, but also the allocations of the students and how they would be allocated among the schools so that we would be able to maintain … the little clincher on this that we will be able to maintain the ideal class size that has become one of the benchmarks and traditions of Lindbergh schools …”

“… We easily would have enough space so that we could stay within the ideal size and it was always the ideal size. And in some cases like we have right now, you have up to the ideal size, but you have some rooms that are under,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Nancy Rathjen said. “And there were plenty of rooms that were under, which gives me confidence that if it goes up slightly, we would still have room.”

Lanane said he had reviewed the projections and conclusions and found them to be “exactly on target.”

“And one of the things that I think is important from a historical standpoint, this overcrowding didn’t just occur,” he said. “I can tell you going back even 10 years ago, we were stretching in many places throughout the school district, using a closet here for a resource teacher to sit with a student one on one … We have been getting by for probably a decade …”

Board Vice President Vic Lenz, a retired assistant superintendent who served as Sperreng principal from 1983 to 1988, noted that space concerns at the middle school go back 20 years.

Lanane said, “And we did a darn good job of squeaking by and kind of shoehorning kids in is really the term I use sometimes and it’s finally just got to where: This is just not going to work any more. And so I hope the public probably never knows those things, but I think they should appreciate or at least begin to get an appreciation they’ve been getting by for 10 years and it just now has got to a place where it’s intolerable … When you see the trailers sitting outside in the parking lot, it’s a pretty clear sign we’re over capacity and we’re over capacity by some good number.

“So I’m absolutely positive we must do something. I’m absolutely positive that it has to allow for more space … I think our community, they expect us to solve problems.

“I’ve been here long enough that the tradition is don’t just solve the problem for today. Solve this problem for tomorrow, too,” Lanane continued. “We want a big solution, a long-term solution and we want something that’s going to maintain the high educational quality …”

Rudoff later asked how the proposal would impact enrollment at elementary schools.

“Five years out, once again 2012-2013, given the demographic projections, what type of capacity would you be anticipating? Once again, we’re sitting here now trying to predict what’s going to happen five years from now with kids that have maybe just been born within the last 18 months …,” he said.

Rathjen said, “What we’d be looking at is that our five elementary schools at that point would all be roughly the same size. As you know now, we have some that are around, that are closer to 450. Some that are below 300. Truman that’s at over 800 and this will move them all to roughly around the same size, which would be around 450. One would be slightly larger, around 460, 470.

“The ideal elementary school when you look at the research, it’s between 300 and 500. So we would be within range of what’s considered to be an ideal elementary size at all five,” she added.

After board members agreed by consensus to proceed with plans to take final action to place the bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot, President Ken Fey instructed the administration to formulate ballot language for the proposal.

Superintendent Jim Simpson said, “… Now that we see clearly the unity of the board, we will put those plans together. We would use as our point man our bond-issue guru Pat Lanane and he will come up with a great way to interface with our community and interface with our parents, the media and all stakeholders to make sure that they understand exactly what this Prop R will be.”

Noting that this proposal reflects the spirit of previous Proposition R bond issues, Simpson said, “I would recommend that we name it Prop R …”