Delaware voters have a little more than a week to decide whether to comply with the school district's request for money to fund its solution to overcrowding.
The Delaware City School District will ask voters May 7 to approve a 3.6-mill bond issue with a four-year draw-out that, by 2017, will cost homeowners about $60 more annually per $100,000 in property value. The funds must be put toward district facilities.
Informational meetings have been held at each school in the district throughout April, and leaders have informed civic organizations and community members of the need for additional funds.
Superintendent Paul Craft said the school board looked at 15 plans with multiple addenda before deciding on the final plan.
"We feel great about what we are putting forward to the voters," Craft said. "The plan is affordable and sustainable long-term and provides a solution to current situation of overcrowding."
During the campaign, Craft said, one of his colleagues described the bond issue as being simple physics.
"You can't fit the number of students in this district in the number of buildings we have," he said. "We have to fix this problem one way or another."
Voters told district leaders during the campaign that they wanted assurance the bond issue would respect traditional neighborhood schools as opposed to consolidating the schools.
Residents also asked if the district would have the operational funds needed to operate the new additions and pay for renovations.
"As problems in other districts such as Buckeye Valley came to the surface, community members wanted to make sure that wouldn't be happening in this district," Craft said.
He assured voters that the plan honors the neighborhood schools and provides funds to keep the schools operating.
The $50-million plan would not require redistricting and would allow the schools to go back to the traditional alignment of grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, district leaders said.
If the bond issue passes, all eight of the district's buildings would receive renovations, from additional classroom wings to new gyms and commons areas. Willis Intermediate School would be converted into a multipurpose building for school administration, housing a virtual learning center and space for community members to use.
The work would begin at Hayes High School and Schultz Elementary School in spring and summer 2014, according to plans.
The campaign's co-chairmen included Brent Carson, president of the Delaware Historical Society, and Jayna McDaniel-Browning, a Woodward Elementary School parent. Craft said they provided unique perspectives at the informational meetings.
"Carson was able to bring the perspective of historical tradition and spirit of the community in explaining our plans with this bond issue," Craft said.
McDaniel-Browning is a mother of a second-grader at Woodward and will have another child starting kindergarten in the fall.
"She's part of the problem of the district's growth, so she's being a part of the solution," Craft said. "She is so vested in the future and thinking ahead. She's brought great enthusiasm to the campaign."
Craft said he feels strongly that the bond issue is the solution and hopes voters feel the same way.
"We realize that so many people are reluctant to see an increase in their property taxes, which we understand and respect," he said. "That is why we went with the least-expensive plan that we could.
"We tried to find the plan that acknowledged the reality that we are overgrown and the desire to keep taxes low."
To those who are still on the fence, Craft suggested they go over the numbers of how the district has grown.
Craft also invited voters to contact the district directly with questions or concerns.
"I am cautiously optimistic about this election, because I believe this is the right answer," he said. "It now comes down to our supporters showing up at the polls."