School bond set at $37 million
The Mountain Home School District will ask voters April 29 to approve a $37 million bond to complete Phase II of its long-delay effort to turn the junior high into a four-year high school.
The proposal is the same that failed by 73 votes last fall, but is $1.5 million more due to rising construction costs.
The district believes the proposal will significantly improve the quality of education for students in the district.
The additions will expand eductional opportunities for students, make new technology available in classrooms and eliminate overcrowding at the high school, junior high and middle school.
The bond will add 26 classrooms, a vocational-technical building three times the size of the current one, a gym, an auditorium and two computer labs.
The additional rooms will allow students to pursue different course offerings, Mountain Home High School principal Jeff Johnson said.
The biggest improvements will affect performing arts and vo-tech classes.
For example, band and choir would have their own classrooms. Because the band and choir teacher currently share a room, the number of band and choir classes available to students are limited. With their own classrooms, the band and choir teacher could both teach a full day of classes.
Likewise, a larger vo-tech building may allow the district to offer auto body classes instead of just the current auto mechanic classes or expand other vo-tech programs.
The proposal would put students from ninth to 12th grade together.
Johnson thinks if the high school got students at the ninth-grade level, it would help reduce the number of students that drop out from ninth to 10th grade.
Students would be more likely to understand they are working towards graduation credits, Johnson said, and have the chance to enroll in current high school electives such as auto tech, drafting, health occupations and food and parenting classes
"If they find something they are interested in in ninth grade, they are less likely to drop out," Johnson said. "If you give a kid a reason to say, 'wow, this is cool,' and a reason to come to school, hopefully they are less likely to drop out."
With ninth- to 12th-grade students in the same building, ninth grade teachers would be able to teach more classes since the junior high only offers six courses a semester while the high school offers eight. That further expands the number of classes available to students.
With the change, the high school would become a junior high and house seventh and eighth grade students. Hacker Middle School would contain fifth and sixth grades and no longer would be overcrowded.
"The overcrowding at Hacker is one of the driving forces behind this bond issue proposal," Supt. Tim McMurtrey said.
Power point projectors and internet access installed in the new high school would allow teachers to take advantage of modern technology.
"The new generation is into technology," Johnson said. "We can capture their attention if we use new technology."
Johnson said most textbooks come with interactive DVDs that expand on lectures but go largely unused since teachers don't have the technology to use them in class.
Students also would have access to better technology themselves with two computer labs. Johnson said the labs would give students more access to research and prevent the junior English research paper from tying up all of the school's computers.
An additional gym must be included in the bond to meet state standards for a high school.
The gym, along with improved locker rooms, weight room and wrestling facilities would solve scheduling problems for the high school's athletic teams. Currently, athletic teams have to be scheduled in other buildings in the district or staggered in the main gym on schedules that can sometimes lead to late night practices for some teams.
The gym also would give Mountain Home the chance to hold basketball and wrestling district tournaments. The current high school gym is too small to hold events such as district tournaments.
The gym is also too small to handle graduation comfortably. The new gym would be designed to hold the district's largest annual event indoors, free from the possibility of weather interfering with the current outdoor ceremony.
In addition to the gym, an auditorium also will be built under the plan.
The auditorium is for school and community events and would double as a classroom for the dance, band, choir and drama programs.
The school district built the current junior high in 1998 with the plan to expand it into a high school within a few years. However, enrollment rates in the district declined and the school board delayed completing the building.
Enrollment has since increased, forcing the district to pursue the bond now.
The school board tried to get a similar bond passed last September but the measure failed by 73 votes.
"We soft-pedaled the bond the first time," McMurtrey said. "We wanted to see the feeling of the community. Although we lost, the vote told us we had a good plan and should try again."
The school board is confident that if it could get more people to the polls, in particular more supporters of the plan who didn't vote in September, the measure has a good chance of passing.
The school board is hoping to form a citizen's group to help promote the bond and anyone interested in helping should contact McMurtry at the district office (587-2580).
"We've got to stress what this means to the future, that we're not just looking at the next two or three years, but 15-20 years down the road. We're designing this so we can expand in the future. This is a facility that will last our students a very long time."