Planning for the Washington School District’s second attempt to pass a bond issue and tax increase is under way, according to Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer.
In September, after months of discussion and review, the Washington School Board voted unanimously to place a new bond issue on the April 2013 ballot.
The board will seek approval of a $49 million bond issue with a 25-cent tax increase — significantly less than the $65 million proposal and 46-cent tax hike that failed this past April.
VanLeer told The Missourian she has met with the district architect several times to discuss the revised plan. Another meeting was planned Tuesday to look at possible layouts for a new early childhood center on the Washington West campus, one of two major building projects proposed.
The other project is construction of a new middle school to serve sixth through eighth grades on the now vacant property the district owns on east Highway 100.
“We’ll be talking more in detail about floor plans and ways to visually enhance our plan to show the public,” said VanLeer, who also is visiting schools to meet with faculty and update them on ballot initiative.
“I just finished chalk-talk with all of the schools where I sat down informally with staff to talk about any issue that interested them and to answer questions,” she said. “Now I’m heading out with a presentation on the bond issue, giving them a look at where we are now and where we’re going.”
School board members have called the new ballot initiative a “good compromise” because it still addresses the most immediate needs without sacrificing the integrity of the long-range plan, while being mindful of the taxpayers’ burden.
The scaled-back proposal eliminates construction of a new elementary school, as well as some renovation projects at Washington High School.
Along with construction of a new middle school and an Early Childhood Center, other projects include renovations to the high school locker rooms; an addition at Marthasville Elementary that would house two classrooms and a library/media center; HVAC improvements at Augusta Elementary; and wireless technology infrastructure districtwide.
A new element of the plan is utilizing the current middle school as a temporary elementary school until a new K-five school can be built. The district would consolidate Fifth Street and South Point schools to this site. Some boundary changes may be required depending on enrollment numbers at that time.
Construction of the new middle school, if the bond issue passes, could take upward of 2 1/2 to three years. Enrollment will likely change by then, VanLeer noted, so there may be a need to shift some boundaries.
Full-scale design plans will not be completed until after the election due to the high costs involved.
“We are researching designs we like and discussing how we would like to set up teaching teams,” she said.
VanLeer said the district really wants to give parents of future sixth-graders as much detail as possible with the new middle school. All of the sixth grades at the district’s eight elementary schools will be removed and housed within the new middle school — a major grade configuration change for the district.
“So design and how the building operates will be important to those families,” she said.
VanLeer said officials also are looking at the current middle school to determine how to best use it as an elementary school.