Southern Door Aims for Facilities Upgrades in $6.27 Million Referendum

Just like Sevastopol and Gibraltar schools, Southern Door is asking voters to approve two different referendum questions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The first question asks voters to approve a $6.27 million facilities upgrade to improve security, accessibility and learning environments.

The school timed the referendum so that it would not increase taxes above the current level for the school, thanks to the fact that the debt on the school’s 2001 facilities referendum will be paid off this year.

The Southern Door upgrades are also similar to those at Gibraltar and Sevastopol, aimed at improving security, technology learning opportunities, and remodeling outdated facilities to meet current standards. The project would relocate the high school offices to the east entrance of the school where most students enter the building, providing oversight at a new secure school entrance.

Superintendent Patti Vickman said all schools are responding to calls for greater security in response to school shootings. Security is also part of the impetus for remodeling the old open plan elementary school, adding walls and doors that will provide barriers in case of emergency. But Vickman said those improvements are also education-related.

Renovating of the open concept classrooms is also conducive to better learning environments for our students,” she said. “It allows for more collaborating in teams and critical thinking. This will allow us to have more flexibility in our educational spaces. Instruction is not the way it used to be, with a teacher as a sage on a stage. Education today involves a lot more open ended activities and working in collaborative groups. Integrating curriculum areas, more integration of different areas.”

The improvements would also upgrade all entrances and bathrooms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The high school parking lot would be resurfaced and lighting improved, and technical education spaces would be overhauled.

Like Sevastopol, Southern Door would also integrate substantial upgrades to its technical education areas.

“We’ve heard from businesses that our tech ed areas should look the way businesses look,” Vickman said. “We want to prepare our students and teach them in the environment they will be in when they enter the workforce or next level of education.”

The second question the board approved for the November ballot asks for $450,000 for non-recurring operational costs for the 2019-20 school year. Since a referendum for Southern Door failed within the last three years, the school is one of seven districts in the state that can’t take advantage of a law enacted earlier this year that allows low-spending school districts to raise taxes incrementally without voter approval. An operational referendum for the school in April of 2017 failed by 24 votes.

Southern Door’s enrollment dropped 12 students this year, to 1,038. But business manager Mark Logan said that a drop of 12 students across all grade levels doesn’t open the door to cut anywhere.

“The building still needs to be maintained, I still have to do the same job and file the same reports, and you can’t cut a teacher because you lost one person per grade,” he said. “We lose the state funding for that, but operationally you’re not losing a teaching position or a course offering. It’s tough when it’s based on per member.”

Even as enrollment has declined statewide, educational costs continue to rise as the public’s expectations for education increase.

“We’re asked to do a lot of things we weren’t 20 years ago,” Vickman said. In addition to improving school security, schools are asked to provide “social/emotional services, advanced placement classes, co-curriculars, technology, and to prepare students for many different educational directions. There are many needs today that didn’t exist in education 20 years ago.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the operational referendum was for $345,000. It has been corrected to show that the referendum is for $450,000. We regret the error.

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