Senior staff writer
The Perry Township Schools referendums on May 5 are all about kids and providing them with the facilities and opportunities to learn, according to Superintendent Thomas Little.
“The bottom line – this is all about kids,” Dr. Little said at an informational meeting March 10 at Homecroft Elementary. “We make do with what we have, but you want better for your kids. It’s (coming) to a vote, and that’s good because the future of your schools is in your hands.”
Voters in the township will decide the fate of a $50 million facilities improvement referendum and a $3 million operating fund referendum at the polls on May 5.
The funds would finance the building of nearly 90 classrooms to eliminate temporary classroom trailers, renovate Winchester Village, provide permanent band and orchestra classrooms at Southport Middle School, repave parking lots and replace boilers, chillers, roofs and carpet.
The district is the seventh largest in the state and serves 14,693 students at 18 buildings. Enrollment is projected to swell to 16,930 by 2019 with a need for 62 temporary classroom trailers at elementary schools.
The student crunch already has hit the 11 elementary schools, which serve 6,625 pupils, nearly 600 over capacity. In 2019, according to the district, those numbers jump to 8,847 students or 2,222 over capacity. MacArthur, Burkhart and Winchester Village would need eight temporary trailers apiece in 2019.
Little and several district administrators joined Homecroft Elementary Principal Jody Matthews in providing information about the proposed improvements and conducted tours of the temporary trailers on-site at the school. They stayed nearly one hour after the meeting to answer questions in a one-on-one format with residents.
Districtwide meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 20 and 27 at Southport and Perry Meridian high schools, respectively.
Homecroft has four temporary trailers, but Matthews explained that they cut into teaching time because of the logistics of having students walk to and from the main building. The set-up cost for the trailers is $540,000; the annual rent is $620,000.
“The information presented here (Homecroft) focused on the elementary schools,” Little said. “We have had parent meetings at the elementary schools, too. The focus was for Homecroft residents.”
Assistant Superintendent Mike Bagley estimates that the increased cost in property taxes to a person who owns an average home (assessed valuation of $122,700) for both referendums would be $9.81 per month or 33 cents per day.
Little pointed out that Perry Schools has been responsible stewards of taxpayer monies, resulting in the district earning an A grade from the Indiana Department of Education.
Pressures on the budget have been created by property tax caps, which have reduced property tax dollars going to the district, projected growth and student educational needs. Little showed that 64.52 percent of students receive free lunches; English is a second language of 4,103 students.
“Every time you walk into a school building, you see kids,” Little said. “You’re sitting in an A school corporation and an A school building, and that could not have been done without kids working hard, and that’s a tribute to the parents.”