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ISLAND SCHOOL BALLOT TO OFFER SIDWAY OPTION BOARD DECIDES TO INCLUDE A CHOICE DURING BOND VOTE SOMETIME NEXT YEAR

An option that includes renovating and expanding the Sidway building will appear on the ballot when Grand Island School District voters decide on a multimillion dollar capital projects bond issue sometime next year.

The School Board action Monday night will offer voters the choice of approving a bond issue that includes reopening the former elementary school; constructing a new $8 million elementary school behind the middle-senior high school, or rejecting the bond issue altogether.

The board action follows growing opposition from some residents who question not only the need for a new school, but the need for a multimillion capital project.

At Monday's special board meeting, Frank Costanza of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to investigate the merits of the bond issue.

The committee comprises six former board members with no professional experience in teaching or school administration. That, he said, will ensure the committee's objectivity.

Costanza complained that the community does not understand the project and blamed the board for not clearly demonstrating the need for it.

He also questioned whether the board has considered all the economic variables associated with the project, including threats to the school district's current level of state funding.

Others, he said, are projected decreases in sales tax revenues and what he said was a 25 percent drop in building permits on the island from last year.

School Board members stressed that they were not making decisions in haste. The project, they said, has been in the works for almost two years.

The proposed bond issue is aimed at relieving overcrowding in the district's two elementary schools and meeting new state requirements to update existing facilities and improve its overall educational program.

The board has at least three more meetings planned before a final figure for the proposed bond issue is set. So far, the proposal has been trimmed to about $18.8 million from an initial $27 million figure.

Board Vice President Nancy Blundell implored the public to make a concerted effort to guide the board in coming weeks, so that the board knows its concerns.

School Superintendent Lee J. Cravotta criticized members of the ad hoc committee for not attending previous board sessions on the bond issue. He also chided the committee for not first approaching the board in writing before making its announcement at Monday's meeting.

"That's just ethical behavior," he said.

Cravotta also said the board will look for ways to reduce the projected $7.1 million cost of reopening the Sidway building.

In other action, the board appointed Dean Rech to fill the board seat of Pedro Fierro Jr. for the remainder of the 1990-91 school year. Fierro, who was elected to a three-year term last spring, resigned last week after accepting a job out of town. Rech, a former trustee, retired from the board last June.

Elections are scheduled next spring to fill three other seats on the board that will become vacant. The fourth highest vote-getter in that election will fill the remainder of Fierro's unexpired term to June 30, 1993.

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