Why you should vote down the school bond

By: Bill Holt

As citizens of the Lake Orion School District we all want to support great schools. First, it is good for our kids and grandkids. Second, it is good for our property values. Third, it is the right thing to do. Supporting great schools does not include wasting huge sums of tax dollars on classrooms that we do not need.

We could close one middle school now and one elementary school could be closed soon. With a declining student population and enough open capacity to close two schools we have no business spending capital dollars building new classrooms.

The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) for the world was 19.4 in the period 2010-2015. The CBR is projected to be 16.9 in the period 2020-2025, and 14.0 in the period 2040-2045. This means that the CBR is down 13% in 2020 from 2010 and is expected to be down 28% by 2040. The United States population growth is at an historical low level as the U.S. current birth rates are the lowest ever recorded. Our kids are getting married later and putting off childbearing. Other causes of lower birth rates include female labor force participation, contraceptive technology, economic stress and public policy (abortion).

Total Michigan student k-12 enrollment in 2018 is 1,475,962 which is 17,092 fewer students than we had in 2017 when the student population was 1,493,054. The statewide student population in 2010 was 1,604,580, which was 128,618 students more than are enrolled in 2018. The average loss by these Munetrix numbers is 16,077 per year over the past eight years. Please note that these numbers represent a period of positive economic growth across the state. The point is that we are losing a lot of students across the State every year. In my opinion, this trend needs to be considered when asking the voters to spend $160 million.

I consider the district’s student population projection to be incorrect and probably 180 degrees off course. Rochester Schools made the mistake of projecting their student population to grow from 15,000 to 25,000 and on the basis of this projection built a third high school. The Rochester student population is still at 15,000 so today they have excess capacity and the corresponding expense. On the other hand, the Bloomfield District recognized that student population was declining back in 2002. They consolidated their two high schools into one. At this point it appears that Bloomfield Schools made the smarter choice.

Orion Schools has three middle schools that are at 66% of capacity. We had 1757 MS students in schools in 2018 that have capacity for 2632 students. If we needed to close one MS and consolidate the total middle school population we would be at 95% of capacity. While this is not ideal it is doable if we needed to save some money.

Likewise, for the elementary schools, our October 2015 student count was 3,345 and our building capacity was 4,082. We closed Pine Tree Elementary last year which reduced the capacity by 572 seats to 3,510. This means that we are at 95% of capacity based on these 2015 numbers. Since then we have lost more students. The trend indicates that we could soon need to close another elementary school.

The district is asking the voters to authorize a bond for $160 million. This includes new construction for Blanche Sims Elementary ($26.0 million), an Early Childhood Center ($17.9 million) and reconfiguring CERC ($7.6 million). These three projects total $51.5 million and none of them should be approved by the voters.

The assertion by the district that we have to have an elementary school in the Village of Lake Orion is questionable. The Village represents about 8.4% of the Orion Township population and some part of that population resides on the west side of Lapeer Road. On average each elementary school today has about 17% of the Township population. When we need to close another elementary school which would bring the total down to five, each school would hold on average 20% of the student population. Before we build a new school on the Blanche Sims property, the district had better find out how the whole Orion community feels about which school should be closed next.

The district claims it would be a waste of money to repair Blanche Sims which is 69 years old. By that logic they are planning to waste money repairing Carpenter which is 63 years old and Webber which is 61 years old. If the district is claiming that we cannot offer a high-quality education program at Blanche Sims because it is old then that suggests that we can assume the same about Carpenter and Webber as well.

We do not need to build any new classrooms. It would be absurd to build a new elementary school, tear down Blanche Sims and then decide to close an elementary school in a few years. The Early Childhood Center should be placed in an existing facility, possibly CERC.


Bill Holt

Lake Orion resident

Bill Holt is a local entrepreneur and current trustee on the Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education. He chose not to seek reelection in the upcoming Nov. 6 general election.


6 Responses to "Why you should vote down the school bond"

  1. Nick   September 20, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    I believe the public should know what operating at 95% capacity would look like before they decide their vote.

    At 100% capacity, every single room is being used at all hours of the school day and is filled with the maximum number of students allowed. For middle school, the result would be something like this: Math could be taught in the band room while the band teacher is on prep somewhere else in the building. This math class would have 34 students. Then, the math teacher could move over to the Spanish room while the Spanish teacher is on prep. Again, this classroom would have 34 students in it.

    The teaming concept that LOCS has been able to continue to provide would be eliminated. A teacher with multiple classrooms would be unable to teach as a part of functioning team. The result would be less targeting interventions for our students, fewer opportunities for teachers to collaborate across subjects, and less time spent with familiar students, teachers, and staff.

    Mr. Holt doesn’t present a reason to vote no on the bond. He presents a worst case scenario for LOCS. He presents a solution for a time of financial crisis. He also presents a solution that doesn’t address any of the structural, technological, or safety needs at any of the buildings he isn’t planning on knocking down or closing. If our enrollment continues to decline, then hard decisions must be made but making the decisions he is referring to at this time would be, not only irrational, but detrimental to our students and staff.

    • Arlene   September 26, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Nick, as a retired teacher I would like to say that moving a teacher out of his/her room for a prep period is not practical. All of the teacher’s records and files are usually in their classroom. And entering your own classroom to retrieve something while another class and teacher is there is more tHan disruptive for both students and teacher.

  2. Tax Payer   September 22, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    I don’t understand the reasoning for closing down a school while keeping open a school that is in such disrepair that it needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Would like to know the reasoning behind this decision. It looks like wanting to keep a school within the village was a 26 million dollar decision!! I think our school board can and should do better!

  3. I care about our schools   September 26, 2018 at 7:41 am

    @Tax Payer – This is not a $26 million decision! Before you make statements like that You should check out the transparency section of the district’s website where they have posted all the information about the Bond projects. The decision was whether to throw away taxpayer money to try to fix up the 70 year old Village school or rebuild one that will last for years. The DIFFERENCE in cost made this a very easy decision, I would guess. https://www.lakeorionschools.org/district/bond-2018

  4. Ed Schwartz   September 26, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    Mr. Tax Payer,

    Deciding which school to close down is basically a geographical discussion, Blance Sims was not really considered as it is the only school to serve the north east section of the district. Similarly Paint Creek, Stadium, and Carpenter were not really in the discussion as they serve the North West, South East and South West portions of the district respectively. That left Pine Tree, Weber, and Orion Oaks. Orion Oaks was ruled out because it holds the most students and is the newest elementary school. That left the battle of Weber and Pine Tree. There was back and fourth between the 2 schools but I think the decision hung on two points, 1) If the district planned to sell a school property then Weber would have been chosen as it is more valuable 2) Pine Tree was/is smaller than Weber. The board decided to not sell property so the choice was to close Pine Tree.
    Now Pine Tree has re-opened as the Pine Tree center leased out to Oakland County as a school for special need kids and adults.

  5. Ed Schwartz   September 26, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    We should expect more from our elected officials than this opinion piece which tries to misconstrue the necessity of the Bond Proposal.

    1) The bond proposal in no way shape or form is being done to increase the number of classrooms the district has. The bond will free up 3 classrooms but that is hardly a reason to spend millions of dollars.

    2) The CBR is short for the Crude Birth Rate and is Crude for a reason as it is an unrealistic model to base localized school enrollment. This is the birth rate for the world, how exactly does this reflect a small town in northern Oakland county? Answer, it does not, it is a statistic looking for a problem.

    3) A good Steward of the school district should never in good conscious suggest 100% utilization as that is an unhealthy educational environment.

    4) To suggest that a school is not needed in the village means that Mr. Holt does not understand the geography of the school district. There is a diffinate need for a school in the north eastern part of the district and why not place that school in the most population dense part which is the village.

    5) As far as the district saying it is a waste of money to fix Blance Sims. The district is correct we can remodel the school and spend a little less (I forget the exact number) and have a remodeled school with a 20 year life and some of the same functional issues or we can spend a little more and get a new school with a 40 year life.

    6)There is no reason to believe that another school will be closing in the near future. In fact the elementary schools are busting at the seams.


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