Meadows Heights voters to decide fate of bond issue

Thursday, August 3, 2006

The $1.5 million measure would fund school renovations.

PATTON, Mo. -- Two hundred and eighty students. One set of bathrooms. That combination means long lines in the hallway at the Meadow Heights elementary school.

"We always have a line in the hallway," said principal Donna Bristow.

She other school officials want to add a second set of restrooms. It's one of a number of major improvements planned for the high school and elementary schools that sit together on a single campus in rural Bollinger County.

But first voters on Tuesday must approve a $1.5 million bond issue to pay for it.

A four-sevenths majority or just over 57 percent is needed to pass the bond issue, school officials said.

The bond issue won't require a property-tax increase. The current 35-cent debt service levy and existing fund balances are sufficient to make interest and principal payments on the bonds, school officials said.

The district hopes to pay off the bonds over 15 years at most.

Voters three years ago rejected a $1.9 million bond issue that would have paid for an expanded list of improvements.

The latest plan focuses strictly on basic needs, Huff said. "I don't think there is anything extra fancy," he said.

"We are just hoping the community understands the real needs," said superintendent Rob Huff.

School officials want to:

* Upgrade the high school's science lab, which is antiquated.

* Expand the school cafeteria, which serves lunch to about 600 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The expansion would include a multipurpose room that would be used for elementary physical education.

* Convert the existing elementary gymnasium into two classrooms and an added set of restrooms.

* Expand the high school library.

* Replace the 37-year-old wooden gym floor and the wooden bleachers.

High school principal Mitch Nanney said the district has no choice but to renovate the gym because of safety reasons.

An expanded school cafeteria is also a necessity, officials said.

"The cafeteria is just too small," Huff said.

Opened as part of the junior high and high school complex in 1969, the small cafeteria was designed to feed less than 300 students. With the relocation of the elementary classes to the school complex in 1985, the cafeteria with a single serving line has to serve nearly twice as many students as planned.

That's made it difficult to get everyone fed in a timely manner. "The kids eat lunch way too early and way too late," Huff said.

Bristow said students in kindergarten, first and second grades have to eat lunch at 10:40 a.m.

The proposed cafeteria expansion would include enlarging the kitchen and adding a second serving line.

The expanded cafeteria also would serve as a multipurpose room. It would house physical education classes for elementary students, and serve as an added basketball court and a community meeting room.

If voters approve the bond issue, the district will proceed with construction design work. Construction could start next spring and be completed by the end of summer, school officials said.

The school district has held two meetings to inform voters about the bond issue. There's been no organized opposition. The first meeting drew about 20 people. Only about half a dozen attended the second meeting, Huff said.

A third and final meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7 at the Meadow Heights school on Highway 72.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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