Poll results show confidence in possible Re-2 bond program
NEW CASTLE – A new bond program in Garfield School District Re-2 is “winnable,” according to a private poll.Steven Jeffers with Stifel, Nicolaus, an investment banking firm out of Denver, presented the results of an independent poll to the Re-2 school board Tuesday night.Re-2 started researching a possible bond program last October, when community members, parents and teachers gathered to evaluate facilities needs. They started with a list of needs that exceeded $230 million and eventually cut it down to $85.3 million.Projects on the wish list include a replacement for Roy Moore Elementary School in Silt and new elementary schools in Rifle and New Castle, along with a new high school in Rifle.”It does appear that if you decide to go forward on a building project, you do have a winning margin,” Jeffers said, referring to the poll his company conducted. “It’s winnable, but you’re going to have to do a lot of work and a lot of education.”Jeffers said 58 percent of the people polled would support a bond program and 61 percent would support a mill levy override. The mill levy would be required in order to pay for increased staffing.Jeffers said combined support for both measures, is about 53 percent.”If you work hard, that’s indicative of where you’ll probably end up,” Jeffers said. “That is subject to erosion.”Jeffers said it was a good sign that 95 percent of those questioned for the scientific poll felt that growth is inevitable and most of those people are positive about the growth.Jeffers said support for the measures is higher among those polled in New Castle and Silt than it is among those in Rifle. He said Democrats are more supportive than Republicans; younger people are more supportive than older people; people who have been in the area a shorter time are more supportive than those who have lived here longer than 10 years; and people with greater levels of education are more supportive than others.Jeffers warned that support is subject to erosion if the opposition comes forward with strong arguments. Stifel, Nicolaus tested an opposition message on four of the people polled and found as much as 35 percent erosion in their support.”This will be a close election, but winnable,” Jeffers said. “If you decide to go forward, you need to be prepared to devote a lot of time and energy to it. We’re not saying not to go forward.”Roy Moore plansCraig Jay, Re-2 director of maintenance, talked to the board about the state of Roy Moore Elementary School. The school is in poor condition due to its location atop a shallow aquifer. The district has had the building evaluated for safety every six months for the last two and a half years. The most recent evaluation found a new large crack in one wall, resulting from a small earthquake in February, Jay said.”It’s doing the same things it’s always done,” Jay said of the building. “It’s breathing. It goes down in the fall and up in the spring.”Jay said the architect who evaluated the building estimates it has about 18 months left before it becomes unsafe.”It’s a safe facility, but we’re on the clock,” said Re-2 superintendent Gary Pack after Jay’s presentation.Because of the board’s sense of urgency concerning Roy Moore it has gone ahead with preliminary planning for a new building. Re-2 closed on a parcel of property on First Street in Silt this January.The district’s architect, Gary Prager, presented a schematic design and virtual 3-D tour of the proposed new school, which shares several design components with Highland Elementary School in Rifle.The district does not currently have the funds to build the proposed replacement for Roy Moore. The board is expected to make a decision at a future meeting about whether or not to go forward with a bond project, which would include funds for building the new school.Other board newsThe Re-2 board approved Kim Goossens resignation and will be accepting applications from registered voters in director district A, which includes the area near Rifle High School and north Rifle.Ava Lanes, assistant superintendent, also informed the board that the district is about halfway through its spring hiring process with about 25 new employees. She handed out several letters from school principals recommending certain candidates for employment.Pack reported that the district is sending letters home to parents regarding the attendance policy on Monday. The day is a national day of Latino and immigrant protest and the district is prepared for several students and staff to participate.He said the day will be treated like any other and students who are absent are expected to produce excuses from their parents. Staff who wish to participate will be allowed to use personal days if they have them.”I know the schools are trying to treat this as a learning opportunity and some teachers have civic lessons planned around it,” Pack said.
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