The Roseburg School Board got what it wanted. A group passionate about improving education in the Roseburg School District is willing to campaign for a five-year $6 million bond levy to appear on the May 21 ballot.
The board says it plans to give final approval to the proposed levy at its March 20 meeting. But should the board do so? Or should it be more candid about what the district intends and needs to do?
The group of district residents that has come forward has taken the name FIRMGROUND for Kids. The name incorporates four Roseburg elementary schools — Fir Grove, Rose, Melrose and Green — that are under consideration for closure.
The name shows how desperately the group’s members want to keep all of the elementary schools open. Members insist they understand and are supportive of the original intent of the bond levy: To replace outdated curriculum and technology across all grade levels and to provide needed maintenance on the district’s buildings.
But the literature on their website, firmgroundforkids.com, says that the levy “pauses the need for closure” of an elementary school and “this funding is with the good faith understanding that all nine elementary schools in the district will remain for the duration of the levy.”
The board is not guaranteeing it won’t close an elementary school, so should it accept the levy? Is that being genuine?
The board previously dropped plans for a levy because it appeared to lack community support. While it’s far from scientific, a poll of 249 voters on The News-Review’s website showed 65 percent of respondents saying the district needs to close a school, not pass a levy.
There’s also scant time to get the district’s message out to voters between now and the beginning of May, when ballots would hit mailboxes. And thousands of district residents will vote on the issue, not just the hundreds who may be affected by a school closure.
Running a successful levy takes time, effort and a specific outline of how the funds will be used. A hurried and failed effort could have ramifications for the future. If the board announces which school is slated for closure before the May, it may lose support from that school’s patrons. If the board waits until after the May election to avoid upsetting voters, it doesn’t have time to close a school and prepare for next school year.
The Roseburg School Board rightly recognizes why it must consider a school closure. Enrollment has been dropping in the district for several years and there’s no indication that will change. That means classrooms are empty and fewer students means less money from the state.
It’s the board’s responsibility to make the best use of taxpayers’ money. We wonder how board members can make a case for raising taxes before they’ve done everything they can to cut costs within the district. Once they make that heart-wrenching decision, are they sure they will still have the right group running the bond levy campaign?