Oran voters to decide whether to approve school bond issue

Friday, March 31, 2006

Eleven area school districts have contested races for school board.

ORAN, Mo. -- An assortment of aging, one-story brick buildings make up the Oran school campus, resulting in numerous exterior doors that school superintendent Mitchell Wood says pose a security risk.

That will change if voters in the Oran School District approve a $2.5 million bond issue on Tuesday to construct a new elementary and junior high school that will adjoin the high school. It will put all the students under one roof and improve security by having fewer exterior doors, Wood said.

A four-sevenths majority is needed for passage. The bond issue, which wouldn't involve a tax increase, is the only school tax issue on the ballot in the area.

Eleven school districts, including Oran and Cape Girardeau, have contested races for school board.

Four candidates are running for two seats in the Oran district while three candidates are vying for two three-year terms on the Cape Girardeau school board.

Voters in those districts will elect at least one new member to each board. Only one incumbent in each of those two districts is seeking re-election.

In Cape Girardeau, voters will choose among Southeast Missouri State University faculty member Twila Brown, pharmaceutical salesman Kyle McDonald and incumbent Charles Bertrand for the two seats.

In Oran, the list of candidates includes Eric Michelsen, Marty Priggle, Patrick Young and incumbent Carla Graviett. All four of the candidates support the district's bond issue.

Five other districts, including Jackson, have no school elections on Tuesday because they don't have contested races. Under state law, school districts don't have to hold elections if the number of candidates doesn't exceed the number of board positions to be filled.

In Jackson, incumbents Cathy Goodman and Brent Wills are unopposed for re-election to three-year terms.

The other districts without races include Oak Ridge, Kelso, Altenburg and Kelly.

Busy gym

Oran's new school would include a multipurpose gymnasium that will double as the cafeteria for the campus of about 360 students, kindergarten through high school.

That would give the school campus two gyms. The current gym in the high school now has to handle physical education classes for all the grades as well as practices for volleyball, basketball and other sports. It also is used by the nearby Guardian Angel Catholic elementary school.

Community meetings also are held in the gym which serves as a civic center for the small Scott County town.

"Our gym is in use until about 11 o'clock every night," Wood said. Scheduling practices and even physical education classes is difficult, he said.

Elementary students only get to exercise in the gym about an hour a week, barely meeting the state minimum requirement.

Adding a second gym should make it easier to provide more physical education for elementary students, Wood said.

The brick addition would replace four smaller school buildings that date back to the 1960s. Two other buildings would be remodeled.

The existing cafeteria will provide the school with an expanded library and media center/computer lab. The building, housing kindergarten through third-grade classes, would be remodeled for administrative offices -- including those of the superintendent and secretary. It also would provide a meeting room for the school board, as well as another meeting room, handicapped accessible bathrooms and needed storage space.

School officials say the improvements are needed on a school campus where the newest building is the high school, built in 1987. The campus also needs a step up in terms of lighting, electrical and plumbing systems.

The electrical system in the current junior high school can barely power all the lights and computers.

A circular kiln stands in the corner of the art room -- which serves students in all of the grades. But art teacher Jeff Pind usually fires up the kiln at night to avoid overloading the electrical circuit.

Pind said he's fired up the kiln during the school day on occasion. "I've done it, but it's blown the fuses," he said.

The new building would eliminate that problem, officials said.

Construction and remodeling will cost an estimated $3.5 million. In addition to the bond issue, the school district would use $1 million over 10 years from surplus funds to pay off a $1 million loan.

While the bond issue is for $2.5 million, $500,000 of that amount will be provided in the form of an interest-free loan from the state that will be paid off over the next 15 years.

The rest of the bond issue would be financed over 20 years, school officials said.

The tax rate would remain at $3.50. Wood said 18 cents of that levy is earmarked to pay off bonds used to construct the high school. Those bonds are scheduled to be paid off in March 2007.

Approval of the new bond issue on Tuesday would extend that 18 cents of the tax rate for another 20 years, Wood said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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