$40 million Cape school bond issue garners 61 percent of vote

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Neil Glass, right, Director of Administrative Services for Cape Public Schools, celebrates the passing of the school bond issue with Yes Cape School committee members, teachers, and school administrators at River Eagle Distributors in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. (Kristin Eberts)

Work could start as early as summer on the largest-ever overhaul of buildings in the Cape Girardeau School District.

Voters in the district decided overwhelmingly in favor of a $40 million bond proposal to replace an elementary school, build an event complex and address deferred maintenance throughout the district, among other projects. The issue, which required 57.2 percent to pass, garnered 61.26 percent of the vote.

"This is really a testament to the determination of our school district," said school board president Kyle McDonald.

The decision marks the next stage in more than a year of facilities planning. The district assembled a steering committee composed of teachers, administrators, parents and other community members. Under the direction of Neil Glass, director of administrative services, the group unveiled and honed a facilities plan that was approved by the board in January.

"We have to make sure we do a good job moving forward," said superintendent Dr. Jim Welker. He said the construction projects will require more designing and planning, but maintenance projects could start in the summer.

The last time voters approved a bond proposal was in April 2000 when the district passed an $18 million bond issue to build a new high school. Three years earlier, voters approved a $14 million bond issue to construct the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, Blanchard Elementary and an addition to Jefferson Elementary. They were the first voter-approved construction projects since 1975.

The district met opposition in the months leading up to the vote. On Tuesday, picketers were stationed throughout the city carrying signs issued by the Cape Girardeau County Libertarian Party, which has been campaigning against the proposal.

Elliott Smith said he was hired through a temporary employment agency and paid to walk with a sign that said, "Vote No Today." He said started walking along Sprigg Street at 8 a.m. While he knew little about the bond proposal, he said, he received a strong reaction from passers-by.

"I know I've been getting a lot of thumbs up today," he said. He said he was one of four people hired through Workforce Employment Solutions.

At the polls, voters had differing reasons for support or opposition.

Jennifer Dennis, a mother of two with a daughter in kindergarten at Clippard Elementary School, said leaky roofs and maintenance issues convinced her to support the bonds issue.

"I feel we really need to invest in the public school system to have a cohesive community," said Dennis, who cast her vote at the Arena Building.

Elliott Smith carries a sign along Sprigg Street between Independence and Broadway on Tuesday. The temporary worker was paid by the Cape Girardeau County Libertarian Party. (Fred Lynch)

While some people feel the bond issue has unnecessary extras -- the auditorium and event stadium are two items cited -- Dennis sees those facilities as essential to a complete education.

But David Kunz, who was among 366 voters who cast ballots by 1 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, said he voted against the bond issue because of those extras. It is the first time he has ever cast a ballot against a school initiative, he said.

The extra classrooms slated for the high school show a lack of vision, Kunz said, noting that the high school itself is only about a decade old.

"I just think they need to get their long-term planning in shape," Kunz said.

Adam Kidd, treasurer of the committee set up to promote the issue, said the opposition helped shape the committee's message.

"We knew all of the answers, but we didn't know all the questions," Kidd said.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the Yes Cape Schools Committee reported raising more than $24,000.

Kidd and Welker attributed their support at the polls to a push to inform voters.

"It was just a huge effort in terms of providing the information," Welker said.

Kidd said about 50 volunteers were involved in the final push to win votes. Volunteers were stationed at school pick-ups and drop-offs Tuesday. Monday night about 30 committee members called more than 1,000 voters. The group also engaged in a media blitz and direct mail campaign to inform voters about the plan.

"I understand it was a hard decision, but the facts support the decision," Kidd said.

Southeast Missourian reporter Rudi Keller contributed to this report.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Precinct results

PrecinctYesNo
1 -- Red Star142136
2 -- Westminster452272
4 -- Centenary12085
6 -- Grace205142
7 -- Arena245180
8 -- City Hall12484
9 -- Church of Christ4219
12 -- House of Hope3241
13 -- Bethany285177
14 -- St. Andrew Lutheran204138
15 -- Bethany295218
16 -- La Croix552287
17 -- Arena523281
18 -- Fellowship206143
Campster4426
Hanover40
Absentee11038
Total3,5852,229
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