By Sue Moore
The Vicksburg school system is asking the public for a millage increase to pay for technology upgrades in all the classrooms as part of a $15.48 million bond issue to be decided at the ballot box on Tuesday, May 6.
The issuance of bonds would be phased in three year increments, 2014, 2016 and 2018. The last one would provide money to replace some of the instructional technology purchased in 2014 that would be outdated by 2018.
One of the biggest technology expenditures would be to create a wireless environment throughout the system, so every classroom would have enough wireless connectivity to support students’ electronic devices. Bond proceeds would also be used to upgrade instructional technology in virtually every district classroom, replace obsolete staff computers, and begin to move the district toward a “one to one” learning environment.
An upgrade in security and surveillance cameras is also planned. “The security upgrades will help ensure that our students and staff will have access to safe and secure learning environments,” said Steve Miller, director of technology services.
The technology service department’s portion of the bond issue expenditures amounts to approximately $5.0 million. The remainder of the $15.48 million bond is allocated toward facilities repairs and upgrades.
“This bond issue doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but instead is focused on preserving the high quality educational facilities that our residents have come to expect for their school district,” said Steve Goss, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer.
The bond is consistent with the values of the community, which has supported the upkeep of the buildings when it passed the last major bond issue in the early 1990s, he said.
At that time, the gym and Performing Arts Center were added to the high school. In 2000, a $4 million issuance, built new music and locker rooms at Vicksburg Middle School and Vicksburg High School.
“We have a long list of critical needs that the proposed bond will help to accomplish, including roof replacements, parking lots, and boilers, among other things,” said Charles Glaes, Superintendent. “The proposed bond will also support the redesign of the Middle School traffic flow that will separate car and bus traffic and greatly improve the safety of our students, staff, and visitors.”
Two years ago, Tower Pinkster, the district’s architect, and Frederick Construction’s managers completed a comprehensive review of all district buildings and a list of repairs and replacements that would be necessary to restore the district’s buildings to “like-new” condition. However, the decision was made to ask the voters for the minimum amount necessary to fund the most critical projects, said Skip Knowles, school board president.
This decision was complicated because of the KRESA request to renew the County Enhancement millage at the same time.
“Vicksburg receives more than our taxpayers pay into the fund as it pays out about $1.15 to the district for every $1.00 sent in,” Knowles said. “While these funds had previously been earmarked for capital improvements, funding cuts and increased costs required us to reallocate those funds back into general operations, just to maintain basic programs. Now we need to face up to bringing our buildings up to snuff by making them a safe and suitable environment for teaching, learning, student safety, and the technology the 21st century will demand.”