Battle brewing over bond vote

HOUSTON The district says it's growing so fast they have about 1,500 new students a year and right now they're running out of places to put them. The district says this new bond proposal would alleviate the overcrowding. But they say opponents of the bill may be working against them - using intimidation tactics to get people to change their vote.

Crowded in a little room, Benignus Elementary students wait on the weather to clear up enough to go back to their portable classrooms. When it's lightning, the students can't make the trek under the metal roofs for safety reasons.

Margaret Chiavone, Chair of the Vote Yes organization explained, "Klein High School has 13 buildings, and the students have to have two minutes longer between classes to go from building to building. Therefore they lose a total of about 30 minutes of instruction."

While most elementary schools hold between 800 and 850 students, Benignus has well over 1,000 and it just opened two years ago. Since the last bond election, the district has grown by 6,000 students.

District officials say the new $646.9 million bond proposal will build three elementary schools, two intermediate schools and a high school. But supporters for the bond say opponents are making area business owners fearful on even taking a stance.

"When someone comes into your business establishment and tells you you will be losing business because of a particular stance, it can be very intimidating," said Chiavone.

Rich Talaber, an opponent of the bond proposal, said, "We don't do that. We don't go to the businesses and ask them to make a choice."

In fact, Talaber says they're just as concerned with overcrowding. They just don't like the bond as it currently reads and wants people to be more educated about what they're actually voting on.

"These professionals said, 'You need to build seven elementary schools.' On our plan, we're building three," Talaber said. "In elementary schools, there's over 1,000 kids currently in portable buildings. The district estimates we'll add 4,000 more students in elementary school over the next four years. That's 5,000 students. You don't fit 5,000 students in three 850-person elementary schools. It doesn't work."

Those against the bond want to delay the proposal for six months to work out a plan that makes more sense. Those in favor say waiting will only make building costs go up and impact taxpayers more. The proposal goes to voters Saturday, May 10.

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