A portion of today’s Karcher Middle School, depicted in this historic post card, was built in 1924 and was part of the complex that served as the local high school until 2000. The original portion has been enveloped by additions through the years, but remains largely intact. The middle school remains at the center of Burlington Area School District plans to update facilities through referendum approval.

Voters overwhelmingly reject Burlington Area School District proposals

Hoping to address aging infrastructure and community desires in one fell swoop, the Burlington Area School District floated a three-pronged referendum in the April election.

What School Board members and administrators got was a striking rebuke from voters who rejected all three questions in decisive manner.

The three questions asked whether voters supported spending $68.3 million for a new middle school and general repairs to other facilities; $11.7 million for additional gymnasium space at Burlington High School; and $14.4 million for a performing arts center on the BHS campus.

Each of the three questions was decisively defeated, with the middle school and repairs option at 61 percent voter opposition; the gymnasium at 78 percent opposition; and the performing arts center at 72 percent opposition.

In the week following the defeat, Superintendent Peter Smet said the three referendum questions were likely taken as a whole by voters. Instead of viewing each question separately, a significant number of voters simply rejected all three, he speculated.

Whether there was backlash over the sum of all three questions costing $94.4 million, Smet could only speculate. However, he did say it appeared voters did not embrace the board’s intent to present them with a variety of choices.

For district officials, the sound defeat illustrated the disconnect the School Board experienced in the comments and desires expressed by staff, parents and residents at public input sessions and the results they saw in a pre-election survey and, ultimately, at the polls.

Those who attended the information-gathering sessions largely expressed support for additional buildings and programs while voters seemed to indicate they are seeking more of a bare bones approach.

The district is again working with architectural and survey consultants on developing options that could be put to a referendum during the fall 2018 election.

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