Survey shows division in community's opinions on schools
It seems that everyone in Somerset has an opinion on whether the Somerset School District should be asking for more money to build a new school or add onto the existing school buildings.
Results were announced last week (from a survey of Somerset School District taxpayers.) They were blunt in their opinions of what the School District should be doing in the future.
The School District sent out 3,300 surveys to District residents. Of those surveys, 355 were completed by District residents, which is just over 10 percent of the total surveys.
Somerset administrator Randy Rosburg said the Board of Education will need to decide "how valid is it to make a judgement off 10 percent of the opinions? The board will have to decide if this is an accurate reflection of the community's beliefs and should it be used as a guide for future decisions on space needs."
Residents on both sides of the school growth issue spoke out. Those who opposed the $35 million Somerset school referendum in April were 56 percent of those who completed the survey.
The survey showed how deeply District residents are split over the school growth issue. One question asked residents if they believed the School District was responsible for large increases in their property taxes. More than 64 percent of respondents said yes.
The School District was given strong answers to its questions. The strongest message may have been sent in a question of what action the District should take to accommodate future enrollment growth. District residents were given 10 options. The largest response (40.9 percent) said the District should do nothing and place more students in existing classrooms.
The second most popular option in this question was adding on to existing school buildings; 36.9 residents had that listed as their first option.
The option to build a new school was listed first by 26.4 of the residents who responded to the survey.
The survey also asked how much money District residents would be willing to spend if they were to support a school referendum. The message was loud and clear, as 48.9 percent of the residents said the District should not ask for any amount of money. The dollar amount that received the most support (16.3 percent) was the option of spending up to $10 million.
The survey also asked District residents if they have any interest in adding an auditorium or a swimming pool to any future referendum. These both received resounding "no" votes. Sixty-six percent of the residents said no to a swimming pool and 74.5 percent nixed the idea of an auditorium.
"People had asked all along about these. We had to know if it was a handful of people or if it was a majority," Rosburg said.
The survey gave mixed signals when residents were asked about optimal class size. At the Middle School and High School the highest percentage of respondents said 25 students or less is an acceptable number of students in a classroom. There are classes at both levels where there are more than 25 students per classroom, meaning the District would have to find more space for classes.
The Board of Education ran the survey early in the school year so it would have time to make plans for the 2009-10 school year. The information from the survey will be discussed at the next Board of Education meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday in the High School Media Center.
Here are some representative answers to the School District's question on what monetary amount would residents support in a District referendum.