Voter approval: Construction bonds pass for Jackson, Kelly schools

Sunday, February 19, 2006
More than 400 Jackson High School seniors graduated during commencement ceremonies held at the Show Me Center on May 19, 2005. (Don Frazier)

Local voters pledged more than $23 million in the past year to school construction projects which will add over 200,000 square feet of education space in the Jackson and Kelly districts.

Both school districts were turned down by voters in previous elections before finally succeeding in passing multimillion-dollar bond issues in 2005.

After three attempts at the polls, Jackson voters approved a $19.8 million bond issue to revamp the aging Jackson High School campus during the August 2005 election.

Some 34,000 square feet were shaved off the original $27 million plan for the high school to cut costs back by about $8 million. Construction work will begin in the summer of 2006 on the first phase of the project, which includes bringing most of the campus under one roof.

Campus changes

There will be a new library, cafeteria/commons area, events center and classroom building. Other parts of the existing campus will be renovated and an addition to the auditorium will provide needed space for the music department.

The old agriculture building will be torn down to make room for new classrooms and a library. The Primary Annex behind the football field, which currently houses kindergarten classes for the district, will be renovated to house the high school agriculture and industrial arts programs. Kindergarten classes will be moved to Orchard Elementary School.

Two storage buildings will be torn down at the high school and will be replaced with construction of a 20,000-square-foot storage building and warehouse behind the bus garage near Orchard Elementary School.

The high school's new events center will serve as a basketball arena and a performance space for the music department, seating about 2,200 people -- about 1,000 more than the current gym can hold.

The existing gym will remain as a separate building. School officials plan to use it for a practice facility and for recreational youth sports.

Jackson superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said the first phase of construction work at the high school should be finished by fall 2007. School officials hope to finish the second phase -- involving construction of a classroom building and library -- by fall 2008.

As of early February, Anderson said architects were finalizing the working drawings for phase one of construction.

"It seems like we're making good progress," said Anderson.

While involving significantly less money than Jackson's, the $3.5 million bond issue approved in April 2005 was just as badly needed, said Kelly superintendent Don Moore.

The money will eliminate the modular buildings the school has been using to house art and other classes for some years.

The plan for a new high school includes a 34,959-square-foot building with 15 classrooms and a library at an estimated cost of $2.6 million. The remaining $900,000 would go toward a new multipurpose gym/cafeteria area.

"Our facility was never meant for the number of students we have," said Moore, Kelly's superintendent.

The district gained around 25 students this year, bringing total enrollment up to 1,041. Those numbers make traversing the halls of the 1950s-era high school difficult, and the lack of space is also preventing program growth.

The bond issue went before voters seven times over the past eight years before finally passing.

The district accepted bids for the construction work Feb. 2. Moore hopes work will begin by the end of February, weather permitting.

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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