A recommendation is expected to be made to the Brandon-Evansville School Board at a special meeting Monday, Aug. 5, to move forward with a November bond referendum vote.
The development committee – made up of school board members, staff and administration – will ask school board members to approve going to the voters with two ballot questions.
The first will be to approve a $20 million version of Option E, which has all students from prekindergarten through grade 12 at one site in Brandon. The second would be to approve what some committee members said was a much-needed second gymnasium, at a cost of $5.2 million.
If voters approve both referendum questions, the total voter-approved levy would be about $25.2 million.
The original Option E was for all students to be in Brandon with an optional gym, locker rooms and Charger Kids Club addition. The total cost was $25.6 million without options and $31 million with options.
Additionally, at the Aug. 5 meeting, school board members are expected to act on improving HVAC systems in both the Brandon and Evansville buildings for an estimated $7.2 million. If that is done and if voters approve both ballot questions in November, the total amount the district would be spending on its facilities is an estimated $32.4 million.
Not all committee members were on board with the $20 million version of Option E.
School board member Diane Richter and Debbie Wood, who teaches in the B-E district, both felt that Option C would be a better choice and that the cost wasn’t that much different than the $32.4 million. At a community meeting in Evansville last month that was attended by an estimated 160 people, the clear favorite of three options was Option C.
At one point during the discussion, Richter said she wished people could just set their emotions aside and just do what was best for the kids.
When talking about adding the question to the ballot for the additional gym, Richter said some people associate the gym with just athletics and that they believe athletics aren’t everything. But she said, “They (athletics) aren’t nothing, either.”
She has children with dyslexia and she said sports motivate them to learn.
Wood believes a gym is a necessity.
Superintendent Don Peschel stated that gym space in any school district is definitely considered educational space and that it is highly needed. If the referendum passes without the additional gym space, he said it would create difficulties.
School board member Jana Anderson, who favored Option E, said, “It’s the same thing every meeting. We just need to make a decision.”
Anderson pushed hard for the committee to choose the less-expensive version of Option E because she believes cost is a huge factor for many residents.
School board member Tim Lauthen also said cost was a contributing factor, which is one reason the gymnasium needed to be an option. He also said that by having two questions on the ballot, voters will feel like they have a choice.
Lauthen also said the two-question ballot would be the district’s best shot at getting a referendum passed.
The Aug. 5 special board meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. in the Evansville Senior Center.
The district recently conducted another survey to gather more input from its residents. It was not a scientific sample and there was potential for a person to take the survey twice. The information was merely data that the district could use as in the facilities process.
Todd Rapp from Rapp Strategies went through the results with the development committee. He said 576 surveys were completed, 503 by district residents. Of that, 42 percent were from Brandon, 26 percent came from Evansville and 31 percent were township residents.
Out of the 503 surveys completed by residents, 6 percent were district employees, while 36 percent were parents with school-aged children. Females made up 57 percent of respondents, while 43 percent were males.
Overall, the majority of respondents felt the quality of education within the school district is either good (53 percent) or excellent (28 percent). Very few, 18 percent, chose one of the three remaining options – fair (10 percent), poor (1 percent) and not sure (7 percent).
Nearly all respondents either agree (48 percent) or strongly agree (30 percent) that the administration and school are doing a good job involving residents. A small percent said they disagree (1 percent), strongly disagree (5 percent) or weren’t sure (5 percent).
When asked if the district needed a facilities plan, 64 percent agreed with the statement, “In the next few years, we will need to make major investments in our buildings.”
Overall, 54 percent of the survey takers said no to needing a school in both communities, while 30 percent said yes, even if it costs more to operate. About half of the respondents supported having students from prekindergarten through grade 12 in Brandon while 45 percent opposed it.
One of the last survey questions asked, “Why is this so difficult?” with 46 percent of respondents choosing “can’t agree on one or two schools” and 30 percent choosing “too expensive.”
The full results will be on the district’s microsite, www.bechargersunited.com.