ANDERSON – The sounds of victory resonated throughout the Anderson Federation of Teachers headquarters when unofficial election returns showed more than 60 percent voting in favor of Anderson Community Schools’ $41 million facilities improvement plan.
More than 60 percent of voters also gave the thumbs up to the district’s request for a $1.8 million bond for operations.
“The community is coming together for our schools locally,” said AFT President G. Randall Harrison. “There’s a lot of happy volunteers back there. They deserve this moment and should be proud of themselves.”
Jaami Bailey, a third-grade teacher at Tenth Street Elementary School, was one of those volunteers. She was the ACS political action committee’s troubleshooter at the polls, going from site to site Tuesday.
Bailey noted that about 35 Anderson High School students helped out at the polls, up from an average of about 20 students in past elections. Student participation, she said, was a testament to the importance of the referendums.
“From the people that I saw at the polls, I honestly heard zero negative comments about the referendum today,” Bailey said. “The referendum is not for the schools. It’s for the community, and the community came together to make it happen.”
The facilities projects emphasize safety and innovation through secured entrances at each building, new bleachers at Highland Middle School and a state-of-the-art innovation center and field house at Anderson High School.
Some smaller projects, such as new flooring in the cafeteria at Anderson Elementary School and a secure entry at Highland Middle School, already have been completed in anticipation of a successful referendum.
ACS Superintendent Timothy Smith, who recently bought a house in Anderson, was at the polls at 6 a.m. to cast his vote in the primary.
"This is going to allow us to create much safer facilities for our kids, better equipped facilities for our kids, and that’s what we are here for – the kids," he said early Tuesday.
Smith said he had been reluctant but hopeful about predicting what voters would do.
“The conversations we’ve had with the community have been all positive and understanding and educational, but you still don’t know who’s going to vote,” he said. “This is the right thing to do for our kids."
Now the real work begins.
Smith said he expected to start immediately with emails written late Tuesday evening and phone calls Wednesday as the district gears up to call for bids on architectural and construction services.
Though Smith is uncertain about when construction on big projects like the field house at Anderson High School will start, he said the district can start installing the secured entries at the elementary schools and high school.
“Some things we’ll be able to start on pretty quickly without a lot of architectural work,” he noted.
Katrina Basiewitz, an Anderson resident whose children attend Frankton schools, said she favored the dual referendums, which she said are long overdue. She voted at East Side Church of God.
“I think it’s something they need to do, something they need. It would improve the schools,” she said.