School board unanimously approves proposal to fund high-priority improvements
Springfield voters will be asked April 2 to consider a $168 million bond proposal to fund 39 high-priority projects, which were recommended by a citizen’s task force. The Springfield Board of Education voted unanimously Nov. 27 to place the request on the April 2 ballot to provide funding for improvements that will result in safer and stronger schools for students and staff.
The decision follows a five-month process in which a task force comprised of 31 community members, parents, students and SPS educators studied the current condition of SPS schools and evaluated the most critical improvements needed.
“We appreciate the work of the task force members and their commitment to valuing diverse perspectives throughout their study,” said Jill Patterson, school board president. “We wanted this group to represent the viewpoints that exist in our community as they made their recommendation.”
On Oct. 16, task force co-chairs David Hall and Bridget Dierks presented the group’s recommendations to the school board. The projects recommended would impact 36 schools, plus add classroom space to expand early childhood education services. In addition to renovation or new construction at schools that will include the addition of storm-shelter gymnasiums, the work would involve building secure entrances at 31 schools, improving the process of monitoring and controlling visitor access to school buildings.
“We were charged with the task of evaluating the current state of SPS facilities and bringing forward a community recommendation for which projects are most critical,” Dierks said. “We felt driven by that charge, so as a group we knew we had a lot of learning to do, and we did the necessary homework. These recommendations are the result of our lengthy review.”
To fund the projects, the task force recommended that the school board ask voters to approve an 18-cent increase to the debt-service levy. The levy would be phased in over two years with a nine-cent increase the first year and a nine-cent increase the second year. The cost increase to the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would be $34.20 annually following full phase in, which would equal $2.85 per month. For commercial property with a market value of $500,000, the annual increase would be $288 ($24 per month), phased in over two years.
“Our study revealed that there is a significant need within the district, so we believe that it is imperative that the school board request funding for these critical projects,” Hall said. “We weighed the identified needs with feedback from community members about cost, impact on neighborhoods and equity, and we believe that conversation has produced recommendations our entire community can support.”
If voters approve the April 2 ballot issue, the $168 million would fund the following projects, which would be completed by the end of 2022:
- Entrances at 31 schools will be remodeled to better control access points that are layered into the path of entry, supplemented with a series of intercom, cameras and electronic locking controls.
- Schools include Bingham, Bissett, Carver, Central, Cowden, Disney, Field, Holland, Jarrett, Mann, McBride, McGregor, Old Sherwood, Parkview, Pershing K-8, Phelps, Pipkin, Pittman, Pleasant View K-8, Reed, Robberson, Rountree, Shady Dell, Study, Truman, Twain, Watkins, Weller, Wilder, Wilson’s Creek and York.
Southwest Region Early Childhood Center
- A new center will be constructed that will serve 250 preschool students, possibly located on the property near Carver Middle School.
- This capitalizes on new state funding for operational costs for preschool students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch and represents a portion of an overall expansion of early childhood services. The new funding became available July 1, 2018.
Delaware Elementary School
- New construction on the current site, including a storm-shelter gymnasium, to serve up to 350 K-5 students and will continue to serve as a special education program hub.
- Some boundary adjustments will be necessary to shift about 100 Sunshine Elementary students to Delaware.
Sunshine Elementary School
- Renovation of current building on site and addition of new classrooms and a storm-shelter gymnasium to serve up to 350 K-5 students.
- Will address all accessibility and security challenges.
- Some boundary adjustments will be necessary to accommodate Portland Elementary students and shift some Sunshine students to Delaware.
Boyd Elementary School
- New construction, including a storm-shelter gymnasium, on a new site with larger land footprint in the Midtown neighborhood.
- Will serve up to 300 preK-5 students.
Williams Elementary School
- Renovation of school on existing site, including addition of a storm-shelter gymnasium and early childhood mini-hub.
- Will address all accessibility and security challenges.
- Will serve up to 350 K-5 students and up to 100 preschool students.
Jarrett Middle School
- New construction of school on current Portland school site. (Portland K-5 students will attend Sunshine Elementary School.)
- Provides expanded space for outside extracurricular programming which is limited at current location.
- Will serve up to 725 students in grades 6-8 and will result in minor boundary adjustments.
Hillcrest High School
- Renovation of building with additions on current site, reducing capacity from 1,488 to 1,200 students.
- Will address all accessibility issues and increase security by connecting all campus buildings so students do not have to transition between buildings during the day.
“We wanted this community task force to consider feedback we received from voters following the 2017 proposal that did not receive sufficient voter support,” Patterson said. “It was important to the school board to take the voter feedback into account in developing these recommendations, and we appreciate the task force for the depth of their review and recommendations.”
The following are just a few examples of how the proposal was crafted to address voter feedback:
- The total bond issue recommended is more than 10 percent less than the April 2017 bond issue requested.
- The increase to the debt-service levy is 25 percent lower than the amount proposed in April 2017.
- The combined elementary and middle school campus concept is not included in the proposal.
- Bowerman, Delaware and York will continue to be used as elementary schools.