As The Valley Reporter goes to press, the Harwood Unified Union District (HUUSD) school board was discussing the results of a community-wide survey conducted August 26 through September 7 which gauged local residents’ interests in the proposed $59.5 million bond. The school board will discuss the results and the scope of the bond on September 8 in advance of voting on September 15 on whether to warn the bond in November.
The survey showed that 73.9% of respondents thought the school board should put a bond in front of voters in November, while 26.1% said they should skip the bond and educational improvements and use the annual budget and maintenance reserve funds for necessary repairs.
Of the 558 who responded, 25.1% said they would not support a bond of any amount, while 30.5% said they would support a bond of the full proposed $60 million, 15.7% said they would support a $70 million bond, 15.7% said they would support a $50 million bond and 13% said they would support a $40 million bond.
Some 33.3% of the 558 respondents said the condition of school campuses was important to attracting new families into the district, while 27.6% said it was very important, 21.8% were neutral, 8% said it was somewhat important and 9.3% said it was not important to attracting new families. The breakdown for retaining families was similar, with 30.7% saying it was important, 25.6% saying it was very important, 26% neutral, 9.4% saying it was somewhat important and 8.3% saying it was not important. 37.8% said the condition of school campuses is very important to providing optimal learning opportunities to students, 32.7% said it was important, 18.2% were neutral, 5.3% said it was somewhat important and 6% said it was not important.
A total of 74.6% of survey respondents were residents of the HUUSD, with 52.7% being parents of current HUUSD students, 21.5% parents of former HUUSD students, 15.4% HUUSD staff, 14.5% HUUSD alumni and 2% current HUUSD students.
While many respondents did say they would support a bond, many others took issue with the price tag and the tax implications.
“I do support a bond but I believe that the costs being talked about seem excessive.”
“It is critical that the cost of these improvements be as cost effective as possible and, therefore, done ASAP.”
“I think that fixing the existing buildings is the most important thing. That is worth spending money on. There is enough space, it needs to be used wisely.”
“A bond is well overdue and critical at this time!!! We have fallen so far behind... families and students are leaving our district.”
“Adding in nice, wish-list items will only further delay this needed work as the extras will bring down the whole bond.”
Several respondents said they would not support a bond that included moving Harwood Union Middle School seventh and eighth graders to the Crossett Brook Middle School campus. Responses on building a new gym and track at Harwood were relatively split, with 29.9% saying adding a second gym would make them much less likely to support a bond and 26.6% saying the new gym would make them much more likely to support it. Some suggested fundraising for the new gym and/or new track, as opposed to increasing taxes for these additions. 30.7% were much less likely to support a bond that included new community gathering and learning spaces while 27.3% were much more likely to support these spaces.
A $60 million bond would cover all Harwood repairs, the addition at Crossett Brook Middle School (including the community gathering/learning space), all requested educational updates and improvements at Harwood, a new track and a second gym at Harwood. A $60 million bond would increase taxes on a $350,000 house by a total of $611 a year for the duration of the 20-year loan.
If a bond passes in November, construction at Harwood Union could begin in 2023, with an anticipated completion date for the 2024-2025 school year. As discussed at the August 24 school board meeting, significant repairs and improvements to the Harwood Union High School building are necessary. The plan presented also included bringing the 1965 building up to 21st-century learning standards, as well as expanding Crossett Brook Middle School to accommodate Harwood Union Middle School seventh and eighth graders.
A 20-year bond funding $36 million in renovations and improvements to the Harwood Union High School would increase taxes by approximately $400 per year for a $350,000 house. Also, on the table is a second gym at Harwood, which is projected to cost $5.7 million and raise taxes by $65 per year for a $350,000 house. A new track at Harwood is projected to cost $2.9 million and raise taxes by approximately $33 per year on a $350,000 house. Adding a learning and community gathering space at Crossett Brook Middle School would cost an estimated $1.4 million and increase taxes by $16 per year on a $350,000 house.
Also, under consideration is whether to test Harwood Union High School for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals associated with common building materials at the time Harwood was built in 1965. Some survey respondents expressed concern with moving forward with building expansion and renovation before it has been determined whether changes to the building are required as a result of PCBs.
The board will vote on September 15 whether to put the bond before voters in November.