As snows melt each spring, empty buckets line the hallways and classrooms of Ogden School District’s T.O. Smith Elementary School to catch water dripping from its leaky roof.
And that’s far from the 62-year-old Ogden school’s only quirk. Circuit breakers regularly blow if too many computers are running, security cameras frequently short circuit and more than half of the school’s nearly 500 students spend part of their school day in portable classrooms.
Terry Humphreys, principal at T.O. Smith Elementary, said an overhaul of the building through passage Tuesday of the district’s $106.5 million bond proposal would not only let the school house all its students, but also help them learn and keep them safer and more secure.
“We hope that if it passes, we would be able to provide students with a building that would embrace 21st century learning,” Humphreys said. “And hopefully not have a rainforest in the hallways after it snows.”
The $106.5 million bond would add more space by rebuilding some of the district’s oldest elementary schools, T.O. Smith, Horace Mann and Polk Elementary. Other projects include adding a new gymnasium for Ben Lomond High School and creating professional gateway centers at two junior high schools.
The new elementary school buildings would not only provide space for existing students, but allow for future growth, officials said.
Because district officials intend to use existing debt capacity to pay for the bond, its passage would technically not raise existing property tax rates. However, if the bond measure were defeated, annual property taxes on a $167,000 home in the district would fall by about $158.
But not everyone in the Ogden district believes that is the best approach. A group of concerned parents and community members, dubbed Ogden Education, has sought to delay current plans, in part to allow for further discussion about preserving some of the district’s more historic school buildings.
“We are not opposed to bettering education through bonds,” said one of Ogden Education‘s members, Dustin Chapman. “We just don’t think the way the bond is current written and the process has been conducted well enough to warrant a vote for it.”
But Humphreys said at her school, which is already almost 200 students over its capacity, would see immediate benefits from bond-funded improvements, in the form of smaller class sizes and more teachers in each grade.
“Teachers would have more than one other person on their grade level team to collaborate on best practices,” she said. “It would impact us by adding more voices to our pool of knowledge.”
Clarification: A prior version of this story was imprecise about the work proposed to be done at several Ogden School District elementary schools.
Correction: If approved by voters, the bond proposed in Ogden School District would not increase property taxes. However, those taxes would decline if the bond were rejected. A prior version of this story was incorrect on that point.