Washington School District

Washington School District officials will offer guided tours of South Point Elementary later this month and answer questions about Prop S, the $26 million zero tax-rate increase bond issue that will be on the April 2 ballot.

If approved, the bond issue will fund construction of a new school in the South Point attendance area, expected to open in August 2021, and make safety upgrades at all district schools.

The tours, open to the public, will take place Tuesday, Feb. 26, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Officials also will be on hand to answer questions about the building issues at South Point and the bond issue.

“It’s an information meeting to help our patrons understand the problems with the South Point building and how the bond issue will address not only that, but allow for safety improvements at all of our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer, who encourages people to turn out and “get informed.”

Additionally, the county clerk’s office will be on hand that night to provide voter registration information.

South Point Elementary is located at 2300 Southbend Drive in Washington.

In addition to building a new elementary school, Prop S will fund construction of secure vestibule entryways at all schools, visitor management systems and ADA accessibility improvements.

Citizens for Great Schools, the committee promoting passage of the bond issue, also will be at the informational event. The committee has a Facebook page set up with information about the bond issue, endorsements, voter registration information and events.

The chairmen for the committee are Brad Mitchell, Stephen Trentmann and Lauren Storie.

South Point

The district’s long-range plan has been to replace South Point School, but past bond issues to do so have failed.

The aging building, which is at capacity and located in a 100-year flood plain, has many issues. Currently, the school is no longer using its gym due to cracks in the walls caused by soil erosion that have made it structurally unsafe.

There are cracks in other parts of the building, but engineers have said those areas are not of immediate concern.

Repair work is underway now and is expected to be completed by mid-March. Funding for that project will come from the district’s reserve balances dedicated for emergency purposes.

A crack in one of the boilers recently caused flooding the basement of the building, which is used for special classes and programs. The water damaged materials and equipment.

South Point also is utilizing three trailer-style classrooms on its campus. It serves about 433 students and has approximately 70 staff members.

School officials have said the district is in the position for a zero tax-rate increase bond issue because it has been paying off bond debt over time, refinancing bond debt and building a one-year reasonable reserve which offsets the need to increase the tax levy.

School officials also have noted that property values have improved along with maintained assessed valuation, and interest rates are still low, which is favorable to pursue new construction.

The district’s levy is currently set at 47 cents and is estimated to remain unchanged if Prop S passes.

Of the seven elementary schools in the district, South Point is the second largest. Washington West Elementary is the largest.

Prop S will require a four-sevenths majority (57.14 percent) to pass.