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$158M school bond vote set for Oct. 1 in Baldwin

Info session to be held virtually Sept. 16


The Baldwin School District’s Innovation 2020 bond referendum is back on the table.

In March, around the time schools were shifting from in-person lessons to remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic, school officials postponed the public vote for the district’s proposed $158 million bond, which would help fund a multi-year capital im-provement plan called Innovation 2020. The original vote was scheduled for March 18.

The design plans that were presented to the community last fall and winter remain the same, school officials said.

The new vote date is Oct. 1 at the District Office, at 960 Hastings St., between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

“As with all of the buildings, the gym in the District Office, where the vote will occur, will undergo constant cleaning and sanitizing regimens,” school officials said in a news release. “Social distancing of six feet and wearing of masks will be strictly enforced.”

The proposed capital improvement projects, which include renovating decades-old facilities, would also be funded by grants, state funding and the regular school district budget.

“Over the past four years, we have received community feedback and conducted extensive research working with architects and engineers in order to put together a solid plan that fulfills the needs of our students and ensures that our schools will remain relevant for years and years to come,” Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of schools, said in a statement.

“Now more than ever, the need to expand space and add air-conditioning ventilation is vital,” Camhi continued. “We need to take advantage of the best rates and complete the state-mandated upgrades.”

At an Aug. 5 Board of Education meeting, all school board trustees supported the decision to put the bond to a vote again.

“There was a lot of positive energy around the proposed improvements to the district, and we’ve already done the hard work of publicizing the vote,” Board President Mary Jo O’Hagan said, “so there was really a high level of awareness among residents, and as a result, there’s been some informal conversation among board members and Dr. Camhi that perhaps we should reschedule the vote and let the community decide.”

O’Hagan polled trustees at the meeting to hear their opinions on the matter.

“I feel that there is still a lot of positive energy and excitement around the idea,” Board Vice President Sue Cools said. “I am in support of bringing the vote back and, as you had said, Ms. O’Hagan, letting the community decide.”

“Given what we’ve experienced with Covid, some of the things that our schools don’t have now, like air conditioning . . . I feel like this is the time that we need to at least put it before the community and see what they say,” Trustee Karyn Reid said. 

A virtual community information session for Innovation 2020 is scheduled for Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. Details on how to join the meeting and directions for submitting questions in advance will be available on the website at www.baldwinschools.org/innovation2020.

For absentee ballots, school officials explained, an application must be completed and received by the district clerk at least seven days before the vote if the ballot is to be mailed out to the voter, or the day before the election if the ballot is to be picked up in person by the voter.

Applications can be downloaded from the website at www.baldwinschools.org/innovation2020 and emailed to districtclerk@baldwinschools.org. All absentee ballots must be received by the clerk by Oct. 1 before 5 p.m. To reach the clerk’s office for more information, call (516) 434-6011.