Voters in Delta will determine fate of school bond issue Aug. 5

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Submitted photo Rendering of the proposed Delta Elementary School.

Property has been purchased and design plans drawn. Now Delta school officials are crossing their fingers voters will approve a $2.6 million bond issue to build a new elementary school.

If passed Aug. 5, construction would begin in October and students could possibly be in a new building by fall 2009.

Supporters know the bond issue, which will effectively raise the tax levy by 51 cents, may be a hard sell in the face of a slowing economy. But they say the needs are obvious: outdated wiring and plumbing, teachers having to share rooms and several safety issues.

"If people in the community can't see there's a great need, they need to get involved so they do understand," said Chris Nance, vice chairman of the Citizens for Education Committee. The committee has been distributing yard signs promoting the bond issue throughout the area.

A resident with a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $97 a year more if the issue were approved. The increase of 51 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would be applied to the debt service fund. The bonds would have an anticipated 20-year repayment period.

The rural elementary school, which serves about 165 students, is about three and a half miles outside the heart of Delta on Route N. The proposed new site is next to the high school in town. The district paid $200,000 for 13 acres there in March, superintendent Nate Crowden said.

A letter written by school board members to the community said renovations to the current building would cost more than $2.2 million. "After making these changes we would still be working with a 50 year old building," it said. If the bond issue passes, the old building would "most likely be sold," according to a informational brochure mailed to voters.

AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Stacks of yard signs and brochures sat Tuesday in the office of Delta School District superintendent Nate Crowden.

Poplar Bluff, Mo., architect group H.R. Porterfield drew preliminary floor plans for a new building following input from teachers and community members. The proposed design is a T-shaped building, with older children stationed on one side, younger on the other, and common rooms, such as the library, computer lab, and art and music rooms in the center. A multipurpose room, which would serve as a cafeteria and gym, would jut off the back.

"Right now the little kids lose five to 10 minutes just going down the hall. This would shorten transition times. And with the centralized space they will not disrupt other kids," said teacher Debra Hess.

A Title 1 math teacher, Hess currently shares a room with a Title 1 reading teacher, which can be distracting for students, she said. She also teaches a computer class, but said that most classrooms only have two outlets, which limits computer or technology usage.

"We don't write for available technology grants because our building wouldn't support it. We can't plug it in," she said.

Roof leaks, toilets that don't flush and mold are also reported problems. But perhaps the biggest issue district officials are highlighting is safety. The building does not meet today's seismic codes, Crowden said.

He said he hasn't "received any negative response from the public" regarding the bond issue.

Several people interviewed in February said they would not approve an issue if it caused taxes to raise. But people appeared more supportive of the issue Tuesday.

"I went to school there, and it was bad when I went there. There's old plumbing, the water's nasty, classrooms are too small. It should go over," Dustin Williams said.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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