Ballot language for the Washington School District’s proposed bond issue and tax increase to be voted on in April will be reviewed at a special school board meeting Monday night.
The board meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Locust Street administration building. The meeting will be followed by a workshop. The board typically holds two to three work sessions each year.
This past September, after months of discussion and review, the 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.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said she has provided board members with proposed ballot language to review prior to Monday’s meeting.
“We could potentially take action then or the board may decide to wait and vote at our next regular meeting Dec. 19,” she said.
At the work session following the meeting, board members will talk about how to engage and educate the public on the ballot proposal.
Other work session topics include balanced math, the science curriculum in the elementary schools and the district’s 21st century learning initiative and technology focus group’s work to date.
Bond Issue Planning
Planning for the district’s second attempt to pass a bond issue and tax increase is well under way, said VanLeer.
The superintendent has been meeting with the district’s architect to discuss the revised plan and review building layouts for a proposed new middle school to serve sixth through eighth grades on the now vacant property the district owns on east Highway 100 and a new early childhood center on the Washington West campus.
VanLeer also has been visiting schools to meet with faculty and update them on the ballot initiative.
VanLeer and school board members call the new proposal 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, officials said, 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.
VanLeer said the district 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.
School officials also are looking at the current middle school to determine how to best use it as an elementary school.