Ballot measure 3A will be on the ticket for voters in Del Norte and South Fork. 3A will ask us to fund only 40 percent of the cost of a new K-12 school with a 20-year bond: the other 60 percent has already been awarded through a grant. If 3A does not pass, the entire $27 million grant we won will disappear — a huge loss to our community. If we say yes, we will build a new K-12 public school campus in Del Norte next to the football field. For $120 per year for $100,000 in assessed property value, this measure deserves not just a ‘yes,’ but a ‘heck yes’!
Del Norte public schools currently run out of a collection of buildings and have several additional unused buildings. Students walk between buildings to get to the cafeterias or school services, like the nurse and libraries, and parents have to make several stops to pick up children that aren’t in the same grade. Students and staff with disabilities are hard pressed to have the same access as others.
Best practices in education are pulling towards using more technology in the classroom to make it easier to meet individual students’ needs, and to prepare them for the wired world. Technology requires up-to-date facilities. Although it would be possible to upgrade the existing buildings, that would not consolidate the schools into one campus and would bring the added challenge of doing construction either during the short summer break or around students while school is in session.
With an eye towards the physical state of the buildings, the Del Norte school district applied for and won a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant to fund 60 percent of new construction. This grant money comes from a mix of lottery receipts, State Trust Land revenue, and marijuana excise tax funds. We are being asked to come up with the 40 percent that’s needed to cover the whole construction project – without the match from the community, we lose the entire awarded grant of $27 million. This is the same grant that has funded new schools in other San Luis Valley districts; funding the bond measure would bring our mil levy in line with Sargent, Center, Alamosa, Sanford, and Monte Vista.
Getting a new K-12 school campus with state-of-the-art technology opens another door for us: the old school buildings can be reborn as a resource for the community. While the school district is held to a limited square footage per student and will need to divest itself of the old buildings, these can be reinvented in any number of ways to keep this west side of the San Luis Valley on an upward path. The district has already started searching for organizations that want to use the existing school buildings — which would preserve the heritage in town while expanding our opportunities. What we do with these is only limited by our imagination and desire for the best for our future.