It’s a testament to faith in the future of Lincoln that Lincoln Public Schools plans to purchase two parcels of land for two new high schools, and both are out of the city limits.
They probably won’t be for long.
School district officials did the math. They calculated the proposed housing developments -- those planned and those already underway -- and identified ideal areas for the sites of the two proposed high schools, each intended to house about 1,000 students.
That is, if they can get a bond issue approved by voters.
We approve of the decisions to build smaller schools. That’s something patrons have said they wanted. We also endorse the decisions to buy a 144-acre plot near 70th Street and Saltillo Road in the southeast for $3.6 million and a 119-acre plot along Northwest 48th Street, near Interstate 80, for $5.8 million.
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Those are large parcels of land -- much larger than the 70-acre plots purchased to build Lincoln Southwest and North Star more than a decade ago. The new sites will be big enough to build athletic facilities, but also with enough space for expansion when -- not if -- the intended student enrollments outgrow their existing walls.
That shows foresight. Lincoln is growing and will continue to grow. The existing high schools are currently operating at 115% of capacity.
We’re certain that’s a statistic that will be repeated as school district officials begin the real work to win our approval by educating the community on why a $290 million bond issue is necessary in funding a bevy of new buildings and upgrades to existing facilities.
The vote will be Feb. 11, and it will likely be by mail-in ballot, which means the next couple of months are going to be important for educating potential voters. While the bond issue capitalizes on retiring bonds – in effect it wouldn’t change the rate they’re paying now – it’s still their money.
The district is going to have to explain to community members who no longer have school-age children what they have to gain from a high-functioning school district.
It should expect questions -- and some objections. It should expect to account for all the educational basics while laying the groundwork for instruction on the horizon and curriculum changes far in the future. And it needs to explain why now -- with a retiring bond issue -- it isn't time for tax relief.
LPS has shown us time and again that it has been an honest broker, a responsible steward of taxpayer money. But it needs to convince us again that this $290 million investment is essential in preparing young minds to someday grow into roles of leadership in our community.