To the Editor:
On the April 4 ballot, voters in the Sandwich School District will consider approving an increase of the Debt Service Extension Base allowing the district to sell bonds paying for unfunded, yet mandated health, life and safety improvements courtesy of the state of Illinois. A 10-year inspection is required every decade applying the Illinois School Code and all changes set into law by the General Assembly. The 2016 state inspection required updates in all six Sandwich schools. Severe violations must be fixed in year one, major violations by year five and minor by year 10.
Several schools are missing smoke/fire alarms in classrooms, two schools require asbestos abatement, all schools have fire-rated doors and closers no longer in compliance. Fire doors delay, contain and limit a fire, allowing more evacuation time for children.
The boiler at Woodbury is rusted out and can no longer be repaired. Several schools were found to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Brick, mortar and windows are decaying, broken or missing. A leaking pipe was found in one school foundation. Electrical panels are in need of upgrades. Steps are cracked and thresholds deteriorating.
The cost to borrow money is increasing. The time to bond and finance these improvements is now. Deferred maintenance is estimated to cost 10 percent more or an additional $200,000 should we “kick the can down the road.” The school is using cash on hand and potential bond money, keeping costs to a minimum.
If the referendum fails, the Board of Education will likely make cuts to personnel, programs, sports and services. What if the school does nothing? The state, according to code, may close an educational facility until in compliance.
This referendum comes at a unique time. Normally, when a school district asks a community to support a referendum, taxes would increase. The district is retiring older, more costly debt, replacing it with new, smaller debt. This is a unique win-win situation for the community and the district.
Our school children, staff, and community deserve safe schools with healthy learning environments. Home values increase with good schools, good schools are part of good communities, good communities benefit everyone. It is simple – pay a little now or a lot later – voting no will not make these violations go away or a school safer. Vote "Yes" for Sandwich schools.