Groups Endorse School District’s Bond Issues - The Missourian: Communities

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Groups Endorse School District’s Bond Issues

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Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 11:30 pm | Updated: 9:22 pm, Sat Jun 22, 2013.

The Washington School District’s two-part bond issue measure — Prop R, Right Now for Children — has been endorsed by numerous civic groups, service organizations and parent-teacher organizations.

The bond issues will be on the April 2 ballot. Both proposals would require a 57.14 percent majority to pass.

Endorsements to date include:

• Washington Optimist Club;

• Washington Civic Industrial Corp.;

• WINGS Foundation Board;

• Washington Area Chamber of Commerce Board;

• Washington Fair Board;

• 353 Redevelopment Corp.;

• Parent-teacher groups in the district’s elementary division and middle school.

More endorsements are expected as the Citizens for Great School Committee continues making presentations, said Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer, who has been accompanying the committee chairmen to answer questions if needed.

Brad Mitchell and John Freitag are chairing the committee which is promoting passage of Prop R throughout the district.

“John and Brad have served on the focus groups leading up to the last campaign, which they also chaired, and have done extensive research into the issues,” VanLeer said. “They are doing an excellent job in presenting the plan and explaining the needs.”

VanLeer said the group presentations have gone very well with people asking great questions.

“I think people understand what we’re trying to do, which is to provide 21st century learning spaces, tools and instruction,” she said.

“I also think people like the two questions and the fact that we listened and learned from the failed bond issue last April and came back with a scaled-back plan that still addresses the needs.”

Two Questions

When district voters go to the polls April 2, they will have two questions to vote on regarding Prop R.

Question One is for a $9 million bond issue with a no-tax rate increase for wireless infrastructure for classrooms districtwide, construction of an early childhood center, classroom additions at Marthasville Elementary and HVAC improvements at Augusta Elementary.

The second question seeks approval of a $40 million bond issue with a 25-cent tax rate increase to construct and equip a new middle school on the now vacant property the district owns on east Highway 100, and renovate the current middle school into a K-5 elementary school.

VanLeer said question one is dedicated to projects that can be completed with absolutely no increase to the current debt service levy.

If approved, students and teachers will be able to utilize laptops, tablets and other 21st century learning tools from anywhere in their school building, she said.

The new early childhood center will enable the district to better serve all families in the community by combining three programs under one roof — the intown preschools, early childhood special education and Parents as Teachers.

The new center would include a classroom for higher education instruction. Students in ECC’s early childhood education program could utilize the center as a lab/instructional setting.

VanLeer said a new HVAC system at Augusta Elementary and classroom additions at Marthasville Elementary will meet facility improvement goals.

Construction of a new middle school, which would be expanded to serve sixth through eighth grade, would create much-needed classroom space at all eight elementary schools.

VanLeer said taking sixth grade out all of elementary schools would address overcrowding and improve student safety due to the discontinuation of modular trailers, closets and hallways as classrooms.

Most importantly, it would allow the district to provide a proper 21st century learning environment for all students, she said.

Renovation of the current middle school into an elementary would allow the district to retire two aging facilities — South Point and Fifth Street schools.

South Point is located in a 100-year floodplain, VanLeer noted, and Fifth Street is in need of significant repair.

If only the first question passes, school officials said art, music programs, P.E. and athletics, preschool, gifted education and class sizes are at risk of being negatively impacted.

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