Longview schools

Longview school officials say the latest opinion survey about its November bond measure shows strong community support for updating the high school trades program and improving school safety and security.

Projects relating to both of those areas are included in a $115 million proposal that would also replace two elementary schools and renovate Memorial Stadium and field.

“(This survey) reaffirms what we have heard from the other groups, and what we got from the scientific phone survey,” district spokesman Rick Parrish said Monday.

Through a “Thought Exchange” survey, the community weighed in on the bond proposal. Although it’s not a scientific survey, Parrish said the Thought Exchange creates a “consensus of the broader community” by allowing participants to post their reactions, then rate other responses on a scale of one to five.

The survey received about 300 responses, with an average of 50 ratings per response, Parrish said. That’s higher than the typical Thought Exchange survey, which usually gets about 30 ratings per response, Parrish said.

“(Thought Exchange representatives) indicated that was a sign of high and positive engagement,” Parrish said.

The most frequently and most highly rated responses covered high school trades programs, safety and security and elementary school boundaries, Superintendent Dan Zorn told the Daily News Monday.

“There is a lot of support for the career technical upgrades that are out there. … That’s something we feel pretty good about,” Zorn said. “People are recognizing that some upgraded facilities will really play an effective role in helping us to better prepare our kids for work, for trades school and those kinds of options that may not be the four-year college bound options.”

In the district’s current bond proposal, $8.4 million would be earmarked for trades program updates at both high schools. Those updates include remodeling trades classrooms, as well as purchasing new tools and curriculum.

The updates would build on the district’s current efforts to expand trades programs by opening a pre-apprenticeship program at Mark Morris High School in October and using grant money to remodel science, technology, engineering and math classrooms at R.A. Long High School.

“For some (survey participants), it was just trying to make sure we cement our focus on that. For others, they were glad to see it as part of the package,” Zorn said.

Respondents also showed their support for the proposed $4.2 million in safety and security upgrades and $9.4 million in big-ticket maintenance projects to be completed at all schools, though they “are wanting a little more detail on those projects,” Zorn said.

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The school board has made similar requests, and the district is preparing a more detailed list of projects that might be covered in those areas, Zorn said.

As for voter concerns, the Thought Exchange participants said they wanted to know more about how the district might reset the elementary school boundaries once the new schools are built, Zorn said.

That discussion is part of the district’s long-term facilities plan, Zorn said, and an “extensive study” is slated for after a bond measure passes.

“We intend to do that … after the bond so we know what we have in terms of capacity at the schools,” Zorn said.

Some participants also voiced their concerns about the district’s proposal to exclude Olympic Elementary School as one of the new buildings. An initial proposal from the district facilities advisory committee suggested one bond package that could replace Olympic, Northlake and Mint Valley schools, but the board is leaning toward replacing just two schools, in part to keep the cost of the bond lower.

Because Olympic needs “some work to keep it a good, viable learning environment well into the future,” Zorn said the district will use a “pretty significant portion” of the bond’s maintenance and safety and security money to renovate the building.

This is the district’s second attempt at a facilities bond. It’s last measure, a $121.6 million package focused on building three new elementary schools, failed marginally at the ballot in November 2017.

Since then, “we’ve been very purposeful at trying to make sure our community, our staff and our families have every option to share with us their hopes for our school district. And we’ve tried to be responsive to that,” Zorn said. “That’s why this bond looks very different than the bond two years ago.”

The current proposal touches more students and costs less than the 2017 measure — both suggestions community members made after the 2017 bond failed, Zorn said.

“In general what we are hearing is that this is a better proposal than we put together last time.”

The board was scheduled to vote to approve the $115 million proposal Monday night, but the vote occurred after press time. An online story covering the vote will be available online on TDN.com later Monday evening.

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