Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Will Dorchester 2 vote to make needed repairs and renovations?

It comes back to resources, again and again, and whether or not our priorities will include quality public education.

This time, it's Dorchester 2, where voters in November may be asked to decide between raising additional revenue for necessary repairs and renovations, and new construction, or leaving their schools behind a few more years.

The Dorchester District 2 board did not vote to hold a referendum during its workshop to discuss the issue Thursday, but it did move a step toward that goal.

"We have to vote for (a referendum), but I would certainly put my money on it at this point," said board Chairwoman Frances Townsend. "Our needs have become so great that I don't see how we can avoid it."
The board was preparing to ask voters to pass a $165 million bond referendum in March 2009 when it decided to shelve the idea, fearing that voters would not support it.

"The economy was so wretched that it was a foregone conclusion that it would lose, so why would we want to burn all of our bridges on a bad deal?" Townsend said.

A referendum in March 2003 that asked for $98 million for schools also failed.

"We didn't tell people (then) that we were hanging on by a thread and we were 20 years behind," said Superintendent Joe Pye. "Now the story's got to change. We've got to tell it like it is. We made it sound like if we don't get this, we'll be OK and that's not the case."

A facilities study should be finished in February or March, then the board can start prioritizing the projects, Townsend said.

Possibilities for projects include new elementary, middle and high schools and facility improvements or repairs, such as new roofs, wireless technology and bathroom renovations.

"When we get the facilities report, that's when we have to make a priority list," Townsend said. "It will have a dollar figure on it."

There's an old adage: Pay now or pay later.

And another, not-so-old adage: Build schools or build prisons.

Seems to make sense, doesn't it?

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