Schools Crumble, Bond Heads For Ballot

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The modernization of old and obsolete Payson School District facilities -- many of which serve as classrooms for 2,800-plus public school students -- received a jump start at the March 27 school board meeting.

At the meeting, school board members gave the thumbs up to Superintendent Sue Myers' request to begin laying the groundwork toward asking voters to approve a facilities and construction bond.

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Payson High School principal Roy Sandoval points to the deteriorating 40-year-old east wing of the school.

The earliest any such bond election could be held would be November 2006.

The first step toward scheduling a possible election is to form a superintendent's advisory committee that will study district needs and develop clearly defined plans and directions.

"We will be searching for committee members who will represent all of Payson," Myers said. "We know being on the committee will take time and effort, but serving (on it) is a very important challenge."

Myers has not set a deadline for formation of the committee, but said, "the sooner the better."

The charges of the committee -- in addition to settling on needs and facility improvement plans -- will also include making a decision on the size of the bond proposal.

"It's difficult to tell how much we need right now," Myers said. "We'll study it and come to a decision, but we want it to impact taxes as little as possible."

Once plans are laid for the proposal, Myers is set to spearhead a vigorous campaign to educate voters about district needs.

"I'm not going to let the school district deteriorate around the children and not do something about it," she said.

Payson High School principal Roy Sandoval said the bond is desperately needed because many of the facilities in the district are outdated and in dire need of repair.

"Look at this building. We shouldn't even be in here," he said, pointing to the 40-year-old dilapidated east wing that now houses the school bookstore and counselor's office.

As Sandoval stared at the rundown building, loose asphalt roofing flapped in the wind and a piece fell on a nearby sidewalk.

Early this school year, the PHS agriculture building was declared unfit for use, and teacher Wendell Stevens moved his classes to a Wilson dome room originally meant for physical education and athletics.

As rundown as some high school buildings may be, Julia Randall Elementary School is in need of the most improvements.

The historic school on Main Street was the first built in the Payson District and today has a student body of over 400 kindergarten through fifth-graders.

Administrators agree the problems exist because in past years, the district's direction has been to spend budget dollars on personnel matters, like salaries and benefits, rather than facilities.

"We've focused on the teachers and the employees and rightfully so," Myers said.

If a bond can be passed, the funds would virtually touch every area in the district. The projects could include replacing roofs, painting, laying asphalt, upgrading classrooms, improving heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, replacing ceiling tiles and improving rest room facilities.

The superintendent points to the two-year-old high school cafeteria as evidence the district cannot maintain and build new facilities with the limited state budget it now receives.

"When we built, it was for 100 students and we knew we had over 900," she said. "We just didn't have the money to make the cafeteria any larger."

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