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On The Ballot: $62.5-million Springfield School Bond Measure

In next week’s election, Springfield voters will decide the fate of a bond measure for the school district. More than half of the $62.5- million would go to replace Hamlin Middle School. The rest of the funds would be used to make upgrades at other schools.

Hamlin Middle School was constructed in 1957 during the post-war baby boom. As with any older building, there are a lot of maintenance issues. Devon Ashbridge is the Communications Specialist for Springfield Public Schools. She walks down the hall and points to Hamlin’s roof.

Ashbridge: “If you look up you can see that it’s a series of peaks and valleys. And that carries through to the actual roof system so what we have are several troughs that collect rain water. That’s true of the gymnasiums and the hallways over our classroom wings.”

Ashbridge says they are constantly battling water damage. She opens up the electrical room, which is full of hulking grey metal boxes.

Credit Angela Kellner
1957-era electrical equipment at Hamlin.

Ashbridge: “So this is original to the building, 1957 electrical switch gear. We are no longer able to get parts for it, as you might imagine.”

The equipment sits underneath a water-damaged roof. Ashbridge says the building has no fire suppression sprinkler system. Next door, the Hamlin choir is rehearsing under the direction of teacher Karen Bodeen at the piano.

Currently there are about 600 kids spread out across the three grades. There is no space on campus large enough to hold the entire school. Each grade shares one lunch period.

Ashbridge: “It is a challenge for this number of students. You can see as we walk through the line, where we serve nearly all 200 kids in each grade lunch, you can imagine how difficult it is to get those kids in here and served within one lunch period.”
Reporter: “It is very small.”
Ashbridge: “And what you see here, this single room is the kitchen that feeds 600 kids every day breakfast and lunch.”

Credit Angela Kellner
Where food is served at Hamlin.

And Ashbridge says the tight squeeze is compounded by more and more kids accessing the free or reduced lunch.

If the bond measure passes, Hamlin Middle School would be build north of its current location where Moffitt Elementary once stood. The new Hamlin would be open by fall 2015.

A 26-member citizen-led advisory committee drafted the list of projects to put before voters. The district has enlisted the help of parent volunteers, including Sandra Boyst. On this day, the mother of a 4th and 6th grader is having pizza delivered and is handing out goody bags to her son's classmates for his birthday.

Boyst: "I'm the Volunteer Coordinator for Stronger Schools for Springfield and I'm currently working on getting volunteers to do phone banking to inform the registered voters of Springfield of the upcoming bond measure, encourage them to get out their ballots. I think our children deserve that and to prepare them for the future and that we will get them the things that they need to learn."

The bond money also would pay for upgrades including technology, safety, security and accessibility at other schools in the district.

Ashbridge: "A lot of our elementary schools are not accessible to students in wheelchairs or students with other disabilities. We would be able to do renovations at several of those schools so that our students and their families could access the school."
Ashbridge: "Is anybody in the restroom? You better scream now."

Credit Angela Kellner
The urinals at Hamlin are original to the 1957 school building.

Ashbridge says the one boy's bathroom to serve 6th grade has the original 1950's urinals.

Ashbridge: "None of the restrooms within the classroom wings are accessible to students in wheelchairs. There's one of those and it's in the office area. So students who need that have to travel outside, twice as far as the other students, takes more time out of their class, sends them out into the elements when other students don't have to do that."

If passed, a Springfield homeowner would pay an additional $62.00 a year in taxes for a $150,000 home. There is no organized opposition to the school bond measure. Ballots are due by 8pm November 5th.  

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