Tuesday, Bessemer residents will have the opportunity to decide on whether the area school district will or will not receive money for infrastructure improvements in the coming school year.
A near-$5 million bond referendum is on the ballot for upgrading technology, school security, and energy efficiency. Some school board members have voiced they feel consolidating the district with Wakefield-Marenisco schools would be better.
Those board members cited a decrease in 11 students in the school system, but Bessemer Superintendent, Dave Radovich, said the school is actually up 12 students: a difference of 23 kids.
â??Looking at the projection, weâ??re going to be up 34 students in the next five years,â?? he said. â??So, again, thatâ??s misinformation. I donâ??t know where this figure came from. It did not come out of this office. Those are the figures that are audited and sent to the state.â??
Radovich says the public has voted down consolidation in the past, and though heâ??s not against consolidation, heâ??s not exactly in favor of it either.
He said the referendum would give the school a much-needed upgrade to their computer system, which will go along with the stateâ??s requirements of online testing in the coming year.
â??If the referendum is positive tomorrow, itâ??s going to be one year before we can put any of those improvements into the district for the children,â?? he said. â??If we waited until after the consolidation effort, then it would be another year after that, so then thatâ??d be a year that these students would not have new technology, security, or efficient heating, lighting, water.â??
Radovich said if consolidation is on the August ballot, it would force the districts to consolidate immediately.
He and other school board members favor consolidation of services between the schools rather than consolidation of districts.
â??Weâ??re sharing quite a few extracurricular programs,â?? he explained. â??We do share some transportation, and also next year now weâ??re sharing staff. Weâ??re looking at one staff person for sure and an administrative position that we would share.â??
He said he hasnâ??t seen a solid plan for how consolidation of schools would be laid out, but feels regardless of that decision, updating the school is his top priority.
â??We need to prepare our buildings for whatever the future holds, whether itâ??s just Bessemer kids, whether itâ??s Bessemer, Wakefield and Marenisco, or we also add Ironwood children, because once we consolidate, theyâ??re our children,â?? he said.