A comprehensive website on the Washington School District's Prop I ballot initiative is now live and can be accessed at http://citizensforgreatschools.org" target= "_blank">citizensforgreatschools.org.

Campaign officials said everything you need to know about the $65 million bond issue and 46-cent property tax increase that will be on the April ballot can be found at the site.

Information also is featured on the school district's newly redesigned website.

The 30-plus member citizens committee is actively promoting the ballot issue and will soon begin making presentations to various civic groups and area organizations.

An informational video also is available on both websites and explains the reasons for the initiative and the district's plans to build new facilities, make renovations and improve technology districtwide if the bond issue passes.

Solves Multiple Problems

A letter from School Board President Brian Sumner is featured on the citizens committee site. It says in part that the district is taking this action because of the district's current condition and future outlook.

"We do not believe that modular trailers, offices, cafeterias and storage closets utilized as classrooms and/or traveling teachers on carts provide for educationally sound learning environments for our students," Sumner states.

"This proposal, although complex, is responsible in that it solves multiple problems in both the short and long term, creates learning environments we can be proud of and educationally serves our students well for many years to come," he notes.

Sumner said the extremely low interest rates, as well as the potential to generate 1,200 jobs to complete the proposed projects, are further reasons to pursue the bond issue.

The projects planned include construction of a new sixth- through eighth-grade middle school and kindergarten-fifth grade elementary on the Highway 100 property the district owns.

Plans also call for converting the current middle school into a ninth-grade center and renovating the main high school to include more classroom space, newly renovated science lab and improving exterior facilities and lighting.

Other projects are construction of an early childhood center at Washington West Elementary and improvements to that parking lot. The Parents as Teachers program, early childhood special education and all in-town preschools would be located in the new center.

Another project is converting the Technology and Learning Center on Highway 47 into an alternative education center for struggling high school students.

Q and A

A Q and A (question and answer) section on Prop I is on the website and includes several comparison charts where patrons can see how the district ranks financially among other nearby and St. Louis area school districts.

Patrons can find a chart which shows how the total levy increase of 46 cents, spread out over three years, will impact their real estate and personal property taxes.

Additionally a chart on St. Louis Metro area tax rates is included and the Washington School District comes in at No. 33 with a total current tax levy of $3.80600. If the ballot proposal is approved, the district's total levy will increase to $4.26 which would move it up to No. 26 on the chart.

Another chart also shows how Washington's current debt service levy of 29 cents is very low compared to other area districts. For example, the Union School District has a debt service levy of 96 cents; Meramec Valley, 69 cents; Sullivan, $1.09; and Rockwood, 68 cents.

Detailed information on the district's current funding sources, the function of the debt service fund and how a bond issue works also is explained on the website.

If Prop I Fails

The Q and A also talks about what happens if the bond issue fails in April. Current concerns will have to be addressed, school officials said, and patrons should know that those issues will worsen over time.

Officials are already meeting to address needs in the short term, beginning next school year, because even if the bond issue passes it will still take several years to construct the new buildings. If the issue fails it will mean that:

• music and art teachers will lose their classrooms;

• more modular trailers will be utilized at multiple locations;

• computer labs will not exist in four of the elementary schools;

• early childhood special education services will remain in leased modular trailers;

• gifted (Challenge) program will be relocated;

• preschool sections will be eliminated or moved to modular trailers; and

• converted closets and work rooms will continue to be used as instructional spaces.