To the Editor:
All of us in Bessemer are confident that our schools rank among the region’s best. That’s a testament to the staff, parents and community that have made education such a high priority for our students. As we move forward, our mission is to continue this tradition by providing our staff and students a more safe, secure and healthy school environment. That’s why the school board approved placing a $6.67 million bond referendum before district voters on May 7.
One of the most important pieces of this issue is that the bond proceeds will enable the district to install state-of-the-art security and video surveillance systems at both the elementary and junior-senior high school campuses. Children are our most precious assets and this bond helps to ensure they are protected at school.
Further, our two schools have outdated, inefficient mechanical systems, lighting systems and building controls. Technology systems in the schools are in great need of upgrades so the new security systems are able to function properly. In addition, roofs and windows at both sites are in great need of replacement due to failure. The district has worked to attempt to repair these issues, but expenses have surpassed the district’s financial ability to continue to do so.
The bond will upgrade our heating and ventilating systems, add building environmental controls, replace roofs and windows, retrofit our lighting systems and put a water conservation program in place. Those efforts will help save the district about $1.3 million in energy costs over the next 25 years. The project manager has guaranteed the savings.
While the cost of the overall project seems high, the cost to the average district homeowner will be about $10 a month. By acting now, we will save money in the long run. Our building systems are only getting older and the cost to repair or replace these will only increase.
The decision to move forward with this bond referendum was not made lightly. It’s the result of in-depth studies and planning. Many alternatives were considered, but the other options either did not address the deficiencies of our buildings or would have increased the burden to taxpayers significantly. I commend the board for being progressive and developing a plan that puts students first.
Mark Johnson, district administrator
Bessemer Area Schools