Backers of $80 million Millard bond issue push school safety after tragedies - Omaha.com
Published Friday, April 5, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:16 am
Backers of $80 million Millard bond issue push school safety after tragedies

Supporters of an $80 million Millard Public Schools bond issue will emphasize school safety in their appeal to voters.

The political committee backing the bond issue calls itself Millard Families for Safe Schools.

“Since half of the bond issue is on projects that specifically dealt with safety and security, quite honestly it was an easy title to come up with,” said Todd Clarke, former school board member and committee chairman.

Yard signs will carry the message: “Vote for Safe Schools.”

The theme represents a much sharper focus than in 2011, when voters turned down a $140.8 million bond issue that included some security spending and a host of other projects.

It also reflects the nation's mood after the massacre of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December.

The new Millard bond issue would pay for security upgrades districtwide, classroom additions at fast-growing schools and a new lecture hall and secure entrance at Millard North High School.

A key feature would be the renovation of 14 elementary schools with open floor plans that are deemed a security risk in the event of an intruder. Renovations would create interior walls, so classrooms could be locked down. The open classroom layouts were popular in the 1970s. Those renovations account for $14.2 million of the proposal.

Clarke said he was born and raised in the Millard area and attended an open school.

“If an evil person ever got into one of those schools, there's no way to control them and contain what damage they could get done,” he said. “We say, 'Well, that can't happen here,' but it already has at Millard South.”

On Jan. 5, 2011, a student entered Millard South High School, shot and killed Assistant Principal Vicki Kaspar and injured Principal Curtis Case before killing himself.

Clarke said the bond issue differs from the failed 2011 bond attempt in both size and substance. Many voters viewed the earlier bond issue as too big in a tough economy and saw the inclusion of artificial turf athletic fields as too extravagant.

“It's really not the same bond issue cut in half,” he said. “It's really a fresh start that the board took with it.”

The failed bond issue contained some of the same security expenditures, including buzz-in front doors at all district schools, which would be locked during the day after students arrive.

After the shootings at Sandy Hook in December, the Millard board incorporated more security elements in the new proposal.

For instance, the new spending plan would replace older classroom door locks throughout the district with new ones that can be locked from inside the classroom to keep out an intruder.

The bond issue also targets general upkeep of the district's 38 buildings. It includes $33 million for capital projects such as roof repairs, painting and paving.

Three schools in the west and southwest reaches of the district would get additions.

Millard South and Millard West would get additional industrial tech space.

If voters pass the bond issue, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $35 a year more in property taxes, district officials say.

The election is May 14.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1077, joe.dejka@owh.com

Contact the writer: Joe Dejka

joe.dejka@owh.com    |   402-444-1077

Joe's beat is education, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school.

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