By Lisa Ferguson
Bryan County News
Gerald Parks isn’t sure how Calera Public Schools students will get to and from school each day in coming years.
That is because Proposition 2, a $180,000 bond which would have been used by the growing district to purchase of a pair of school buses, failed to get the 60 percent approval it needed from voters to pass during the Feb. 11 election.
Parks, who is Calera Public Schools’ superintendent, said the district currently has six bus routes that serve its 800 students. As the community grows, it was looking to add at least one additional route.
However, with the failure of the bond, that plan will likely have to change.
“Instead of adding another route, we may have to … put a limit on how far away people live from school before we can pick their kids up,” Parks said. “That would be another thing we would have to consider if we don’t have the buses to run these routes.”
Calera schools were dealt a double whammy on election night: Proposition 1, a $630,000 bond that would have allowed the district pay to improve security systems, purchase computers and classroom furniture, replace and repair HVAC equipment and construct an administration building, also failed.
Speaking to the Bryan County News following the election, Parks said he is uncertain why both bonds failed.
“Our biggest concern with that is with the growth that we’re having in our community, it’s important for us to be looking ahead as far as classroom space and those things,” he explained. “Where it’s going to be difficult, if you still have all these items that need to be fixed and repaired, (is) trying to have the funding to build new classrooms and things for growth.”
The district has “classrooms that teachers have been teaching (in) 20 years and they’ve still got the same equipment,” Parks said. “Some of the chairs are busted. The kids - it catches their clothes, their hair. … When you start adding up all of the little things, that’s why that (bond) amount was where it was.
“We could have made it a lot higher and addressed more issues. We tried to concentrate just on just the needed items that we felt were pretty urgent and we were going to try to address the others as we could,” he said, “but evidently, the community didn’t think they were that urgent. I guess that’s the bottom line.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Max Rowland, superintendent of Rock Creek Public Schools, after that district’s proposition for a $2,160,000 bond also got a thumbs down from voters.
“We just thought we had it. Everybody was talking positive. Everybody was shocked” by the outcome, he said after the election.
The bond would have been used to construct and equip a building addition as well as a security foyer at the elementary campus. An addition was also planned for the school cafeteria, and renovations and repairs were to be made on the first- through third-grade building. An existing playground was to be relocated and plans were to remove the current pre-kindergarten and kindergarten building.
Rowland said the campus’ buildings have about 20 points of entry that lack updated security features.
“Most schools have a security foyer where you buzz people in and out and kind of monitor” the campus, he said. “We just don’t have that capability, so we’re pretty exposed.”
The school has had to institute three lunch periods daily to accommodate its students in the small lunch room.
“Our Early Childhood (program) kids have to walk about 1,500 feet to go outside in order to get to the cafeteria,” Rowland said, which can be difficult during inclement weather.
Also, because the school’s library is located outside of the main building, “If you send (students) for a library book, they’re walking outside for a long distance, so it’s not secure at all,” he said.
Rowland said Rock Creek Public Schools may attempt to garner voter support for a bond sometime in the future.
Until then, “We’re just gonna keep making do,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”