Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

School board seeks another bond issue

$26.7 million school plan headed to vote in November

February 16, 2006

What will November bring?

Last November brought the Basehor-Linwood school district its seventh bond issue defeat in eight proposals.

In nine months the district will learn whether history repeats itself.

Members of the Basehor-Linwood school board unanimously agreed Monday to propose another bond issue in November. The board moved forward with the bond issue Monday so it could get a jump on persuading voters to approve the $26.7 million question.

"Why put it off until March if we know we're going to move forward?" said Don Swartz, school district director of building operations. "(We think) it's best to go ahead and get going and start seeing how we're going to get those extra votes."

An approved bond issue would pay for: a new elementary school, constructed on 15 acres of vacant, district-owned land west of the high school, and renovations to Basehor-Linwood Middle School and Basehor and Glenwood Ridge elementary schools.

"Based on data, this is what we believe will be successful," school Superintendent Jill Hackett said. "What it boils down to is: This is what's good for all."

"Nobody can argue about the economic feasibility of the plan," Swartz said. "It is the best plan for the money and it reaches the most kids."

Administrators believe new school construction is the answer to overcrowding and booming residential growth inside the district, which encompasses 89 square miles.

Only the high school, with an enrollment of 549 students and a capacity of 960, has room to accommodate additional students. The most pressing space concern lies at Basehor Elementary School, which ranks No. 1 on the district's list of priorities for adding more classrooms.

BES, a kindergarten through fifth-grade building on Leavenworth Road, has a capacity of 411 students. The school's current enrollment is 387 students, which leaves the school with 6 percent room for growth.

Ranking second on the priority list is the Sixth Grade Center, a school that technically is part of Basehor elementary. But the center is in a separate building east on Leavenworth Road. It has a capacity of 168 students and an enrollment of 151, leaving it with 10 percent room for growth.

Glenwood Ridge and the combination middle/elementary school building in Linwood also are near capacity. Those schools rank third and fourth on the priority list and have 15 and 20 percent room for growth, respectively.

If approved by voters, the bond issue would provide 54 new classrooms and accommodate 1,765 more students.

Swartz said about 30 subdivisions in the district are in some stage of development. All told, those subdivisions could account for more than 3,000 new homes.

The school board moved forward with proposing the bond issue three days after the District Advisory Council -- a group of patrons that weigh in on educational issues with school officials -- agreed to support the new school construction question.

The group hosted a meeting last Thursday, Feb. 9.

The DAC, which partnered with school officials to promote a $22.9 million bond issue last year, voted on whether to propose another question. According to tallies provided by the district, 55 DAC members voted in favor of another bond issue, 10 voted no and 6 indicated they remained neutral.

Jerry Bailey, a Kansas State University professor and facilitator of the meeting, told DAC members that their work in crafting the bond issue has been for the "common good" of the district.

"I think you've made history," Bailey said.

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