This school bond defeat really isn’t surprising, even though MI voters are strong supporters of the school system, including many who voted against this bond measure. The voters, however, seem to have a better memory than the School Board and bond supporters, who kept saying, inaccurately, that the buildings need replacement because they are 50 years old. But they were almost completely rebuilt in the 1990s. The school district contended at that time that rebuilding was better than totally new construction because it would be a bit cheaper and make the buildings as modern and durable as new construction would. Nobody on the School Board has said those assurances about durability of the 1990s rebuilding projects were false, and presumably then they weren’t. Now it is true that in the 1990s rebuilding plan, the school buildings were intentionally rebuilt too small for the school population, with a plan to utilize portables, which occurred nearly immediately. That error alone could support building another elementary school now and probably adding space to the middle and high schools. It certainly doesn’t support building several new schools.
The voters also noticed quite recently that the board has proven its lack of a realistic plan for all this money it wanted by contracting to purchase the “Stevenson property,” which the district itself admits has no potential to operate as a school or anything else the school district needs. The board’s fallback argument that even though useless for school purposes, the property might have value in a trade for some other property ignores the wetland questions on that property and disregards the important question whether this property will somehow have more value than the money that would be wasted on buying it. This purchase showed that the district has no idea where even to start using the money it wants to obtain. The board needs to find a way out of that wasteful expenditure and come up with a realistic and definite plan that takes into account the fact that it recently rebuilt the schools (they’re not 50 years old).
Finally, the district has continued to make poor school population projections, deciding a while ago that there’s plenty of space for off-Island children even with all those portables, and disregarding the development of many apartments in the projections. The city has had many apartments with children for decades and could assume, for example, the same average number of children in old two-bedroom apartments will exist in new apartments.
I think the School Board could do much better (except Dave Myerson, of course, who represented voters well with respect to their views on this bond issue). It should start over.