Our view: School bonds

Modest package features career and tech training, maintenance

March 29, 2012 

From construction academies to crumbling tiles to the long needed renovation of Service High School, the school bonds package voters will decide on Tuesday is a meat-and-potatoes investment well worth the community's support. The $59 million package carries a property taxpayers price tag of $20.57 per year on a $300,000 home -- assuming the state Legislature continues to reimburse schools for up to 70 percent of qualifying projects. Lawmakers have never said no, so that's a safe bet.

What voters -- and students -- will get for the money is continued modernization of career and technical training at our middle schools and high schools, with emphasis on high-tech aspects of many jobs from automotive mechanics to health care to construction. The bond includes $23.8 million for such programs, which will give teachers and students the tools they need to qualify for further training and/or a move into good paying jobs in the work force.

Outgoing Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau said this bonding continues a new and popular initiative toward a broader-based school curriculum that embraces both academics and job training, and aims to blend them, teaching critical thinking, communication and hands-on skills that students can apply in more ways than one.

Another $23.8 million will cover repairs and renovations at schools throughout the district, from fire alarm systems to windows, from roofs to asbestos-laden tiles. This is just necessary maintenance; the district chose its projects based on an independent facilities index that put the most pressing needs at the top of the list.

At Service High, a scaled-down bond of $9.1 million will fetch an already-committed $21 million from the state. The district listened to the message of voters and dropped the 700-seat auditorium from the Service remake. What remains will still revitalize the Hillside school that is, as Comeau pointed out, basically unchanged from when her children attended in the 1980s.

Finally, there's $2.4 million for design of new K-8 school in Girdwood, a town which is growing and outgrowing its current school.

From Girdwood in the south to Mirror Lake Middle School in the north, the package will help 40 schools deliver safer, sounder buildings and more opportunities to thousands of students.

It's Proposition 1 on the Tuesday's municipal ballot, and deserves a Yes vote.

BOTTOM LINE: Prop. 1 is a solid investment in Anchorage schools.

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