Buildings and elections arent as important as character and resiliency. That was the message at Southwest Open School on Wednesday morning.
The student body gathered for the weekly governance meeting at Lifeway Baptist Church midmorning Wednesday to discuss upcoming service projects and trips, and to hear staff and student announcements. Though much of the meeting was business as usual, the mood was subdued as the students and staff absorbed the defeat of Referendum 3A, a $3.4 million bond question earmarked for facility improvements at the campus.
The bond, an increase in property taxes, was intended to match a $7.4 million grant from the Colorado Department of Educations Building Excellent Schools Today program. The state grant was awarded for a $10.8 million campus overhaul and was contingent on the schools ability to raise the remaining amount. In light of the bonds rejection, the school will lose the state funds.
The bond failed by a vote of 2,322, 56 percent, to 1,812, 44 percent.
SWOS Director Judy Hite took advantage of the all-campus meeting Wednesday, held at the local church due to lack of space at the schools campus, to encourage the students and staff.
I am sad today, but this is part of democracy, Hite said. We had to go to the people, and the people said they didnt have enough money. Everyone is hurting, the economy is hurting, and people couldnt do more taxes.
Hite stressed that the bonds failure is not a reflection of the communitys support of the school.
There are so many people who supported SWOS through this, she said. The people I talked to said they didnt vote against the bond because they didnt support us; they didnt feed they could handle more taxes. We have to understand that.
Jokes bounced around the room about the necessity to maintain the modular buildings used for classrooms on the campus, most of which are more than 25 years old.
I guess we need to pull our Pledge and shine up the trailers because we will be in them for a while, Hite said.
Students and staff expressed disappointment over the results of the election and the vanishing opportunity for a new campus.
Im surprised it didnt get passed, said Isaac Kimbro, 18. I thought people would be more than ready to increase education benefits to students here. It is very unexpected.
Dylan Smillie, 17, said he doesnt understand the communitys thought process.
I think if we can have four or five banks and new buildings going up everywhere we can have a new school, he said. I dont know why (the community) is OK with us sitting in trailers.
Im saddened by the outcome but hopeful for the things that are to come, said Cathy Kingery, a 24-year staff member at SWOS. We had over 43 percent of the community that believe in us, so weve got to be doing something right.
SWOS Assistant Director Jennifer Carter said the only option for the school is to move forward.
I am not looking at this as defeat but hope, Carter said. There is always a Plan B.
What Plan B will look like, however, is still very much up in the air.
Hite said the direction the school takes will be up to the board. On Tuesday night, she said, school officials will have to rethink the schools entire budget.
The board will have to talk about what to do next, Hite said Wednesday. I think we ran a good campaign, and I feel really good about the support that came in from the community in many ways.
Despite the obvious disappointment, members of the SWOS family were unanimous in their characterization of SWOS as a school not defined by facilities.
We will be OK, Kimbro said. Our school will still flourish, and we cant let this affect our education. We will have another chance.
These students deal with adversity in their lives every day, and they still get up and come here, she said. We are all resilient and we will just keep going.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at firstname.lastname@example.org.