School district debuts $5 million bond measure

By: Gloria Beverage
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The Colfax Elementary School District has announced plans to place a $5 million bond on the November ballot. The funds are intended for classroom and school improvement projects at the main campus, Colfax Elementary School District Superintendent/-Principal Jon Ray told a group of community leaders on Monday night. He made a similar presentation to the Colfax City Council on Tuesday evening. Property owners within the school district boundaries are being asked to match the $2.5 million in developers' fees and state funds earmarked for schools. What this means to the taxpayer in our area is $26.50 per year per $100,000 of assessed value of the property, he said. Someone with property assessed at $500,000, for example, would be paying an additional $132.50 in property taxes annually for the next 20 years. This money will not go toward salaries or my retirement package, Ray said. We want this to go directly into the classrooms for the kids and for the community. It's not going anywhere but here. At the top of the list of projects is upgrading classrooms at Colfax Elementary and Iowa Hill. We would like at least 10 computers in every classroom as well as a permanently mounted projector and a SMART board (an interactive whiteboard used to make presentations) with surround sound, he said. Since the teacher will be wearing a microphone, students will be able to hear no matter where they are sitting in the classroom. One company that sells the SMART board will, at no cost to the district, set up a demonstration classroom on campus this spring, Ray continued. It would give people an opportunity to experience it. The district would also like to establish a dedicated applied academics classroom and science lab. The goal is to offer students a solid foundation to move into the increasingly technical global environment. It would have lab stations and cubicles with equipment to teach everything from CAD (computer-aided design) drawing to aerospace and waste management, he said. When the school was built in the 1980s, they ran a ton of conduit, Ray said. The infrastructure is in place. We'll just have to run new fiber optics. In addition, the district would like to add showers and locker rooms in the gym, develop an outdoor performing arts area, build a shade structure over the playgrounds and add a permanent restroom and snack bar on the field. An all-weather four-lane track and a generic soccer/football field as well as bleachers would replace the existing field. Due to its location on the school property, the existing grass field is often inaccessible for recreation. The field, snack bar and restroom would be open to the community, particularly to soccer and youth football teams for practices and games, Ray stressed. Considering the lack of park facilities, we believe it's important to make this available to the community, Ray said. Finally, the bus loop and parking area at the school's entrance will be redesigned to eliminate traffic jams before and after school. Since being named superintendent/principal in January 2007, Ray has worked to turn what he sees as a good school into a great school. We follow a standards-based approach to the fundamentals in addition to offering a broad spectrum of enrichment courses and a top-notch after-school program for all students, he said. He has established a school-wide discipline policy to cultivate a safe, respectful and responsible environment, obtained grant funding to start a band program and hired a full-time P.E. teacher. Class-size reduction was established in all grades with K-3 averaging 20:1 and fourth through eighth averaging 25.1. The decision was also made to change Kindergarten to a full day, thus allowing for one dismissal time. Last year, he pointed out, there were three separate dismissal times “ morning kindergarten, afternoon kindergarten through third grade and for fourth through eighth grades. The after-school program is designed to benefit students identified as at risk of not reaching academic proficiency, he said. The three-part program offers intensive intervention with math and reading, homework assistance and fun, right-brained activities such as visual and performing arts. Unfortunately, the projected state budget cuts will mean three teacher contracts will not be renewed, Ray said. He vows the class size reduction will stay. If anything else has to go, it can't be in the classroom, he vowed. This is the first time in the district's 83-year history that the voters have been asked to pass a bond. The current bond we're now paying off is for the high school district, he said.