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Yes or no?

Community debates as Feb. 22 school bond election nears.

Questions were asked, answered, discussed and debated as school officials, teachers, and community members gathered at the home of Karen and Steve Appledorn last week to talk about the upcoming school bond election. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)
February 09, 2011 - By Laura Colvin

Review editor

Even in tough economic times, many Lake Orion voters plan to vote 'yes' on the upcoming $25.5 million school bond issue. They say it on Facebook, in letters, at community bond discussion meetings. 'Vote yes! I am!'

Those planning to vote 'no' are just as vocal. They say it on Facebook, in letters, at community bond discussion meetings. 'Vote no! I am!'

With the Feb. 22 school bond election still two weeks away, Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults said some 1,900 voters have already requested absentee ballots from her office.

"And we expect that number to increase," Shults said, noting all 14 township/village precincts will be open and voters should report to their usual polling places. "We're seeing quite a bit of interest in the bond election."

Precincts around Lake Orion are open 7 a.m.-8 p.m.... Feb. 22, and polling places will be ready for voters in neighboring municipalities, as well; Oxford, Addison, Independence and Oakland townships, and Auburn Hills all contain small pockets of the Lake Orion Community Schools' district.

Nearly 500 additional ballots have gone out to those communities.

According to Oakland County Director of Elections Joe Rozell, his office has issued 64 absentee voter (AV) ballot requests from Independence Township, 134 from Oxford Township and 157 from Oakland Township voters living within the boundaries of the Lake Orion School district.

Should the bond pass, Rozell explained, the millage increase will affect all homeowners in the district the same, regardless of municipality.

Another 38 AV ballots were requested by Addison Township voters thus far, said Addison Clerk Pauline Bennett.

If it passes, the $25,530,000 bond will be allocated in four directions: The bulk of funds - $14.1 million - are slated for technology. $3.1 million will go toward new buses, $2.9 million is allocated for building refurbishment, and safety/security measures add up to $2.6 million. Bond issuance costs, construction management and architect and technology fees would soak up the remaining $2.8 million.

At a Dec. 8 regular meeting of the district's Board of Education, Jillynn Keppler, assistant superintendent of administrative services, talked about the needs in each area.

Safety and security, she said, is a continuous concern.

"We're looking at providing a secure entry point...and monitoring even more closely the access into our buildings," Keppler said. We do feel our buildings are safe, but in the current day we live in there's always room to enhance that component."

Projects, for example, range from a buzz-in security vestibule at $25,000 for most buildings, to a 1,200 square-foot new entry -- $226,800 and an additional $20,000 for the accompanying security vestibule -- at Lake Orion High School.

"The high school administrative team took a look at what we could potentially do there and came up with a very creative idea," said Keppler. "We will do a small addition, about 1,000 square feet, right out the front door, that would encompass the attendance office as well as security."

The attendance office, along with the principal's office, she said, makes up a lot of the school's daily in-and-out traffic.

The new entry way would have multiple benefits, she explained.

"It also provides a point for parents when they need to drop things off for their students," Keppler said, noting currently the drop off point is buried a good distance inside the school. "That they aren't going all the way in, but coming right there. This limits the access into the building with is really the ultimate goal."

The new addition would also house security personnel and equipment such as computer to provide additional eyes.

"Obviously there are many halls," Keppler said. "Our campus monitors doing quite a good job but it is a lot of ground to cover."

Keppler noted the plan was to increase video monitoring systems on school grounds as well as on buses "to help with a lot of discipline issues, and internal communications."

Buses $3.1 million

In 2010, seven of the district's 69 buses were red-tagged by the Michigan State Police Traffic Safety Division, which anually inspects Michigan's school buses on a Sept.-Aug cycle.

The agency issues a report, which is published on its webiste, each year.

According to the report, red-tagged buses were determined unsafe and required by Michigan law to undergo repair before returning to passenger service.  

In 2009, only one of Lake Orion's 64 inspected buses recieved a red tag, while 71 out of 71rolled off with a "pass" rating in 2008.

The district transports 5,000 students every day, twice a day, accoring to Keppler, and this year, school officials opted to lease part of its bus fleet.

"Prior to the lease over 53 percent of our busses were 10 years or older," Keppler said. Now 32 percent of the fleet is 10 years or older. Ten years is the desired rotation on the types of roads and the miles we travel."

Bond dollars, she said, would allow the district to restore its optimum rotation cycle and also cut back on a great deal of repair and maintains spending.

"Every bus we place on the road is safe," she said. "But they are taking more time and money to maintain."

Roofs around the district are in need of some attention, to, Keppler said, noting several leak into classrooms and onto equipment.

"Every roof in the district does need some restoration," she said. " The one at Orion Oaks needs to be fully replaced."

Forty new toilets are also on the list for Webber, while other buildings need mechanical, lighting and HVAC systems, Keppler said.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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