After several public meetings with citizens in the community, Ittner Architectural Leadership appeared before the St. James School Board of Education last week to discuss long-term planning information. The board met on Thursday night, receiving an update on areas the public feels the district should concentrate on improving. Dennis Young and Todd Powers, of Ittner, discussed options with the board. After hearing their report, board members decided to proceed with a $2.5 million bond issue on the April ballot.
“We’ve had our public meetings and we’ve gone through the process of data collection. We have looked at every option possible. We weighed those options with the citizens committee over five meetings. They were very sincere with their thoughts,” Young told the board. “Every district has a planning cycle. Some are fast and some are long. You’ve seen flat growth, so you can plan on a long cycle.”
Over the past several months, Ittner met with members of the community to discuss what areas should be focused on, as funding is available. Respondents felt the top priorities are improving the track, additional classrooms at both the middle and high school and improving security at the high school.
Young discussed options with the board on how the district could financially afford to expand and replace the track and field, converting it into an athletic and band complex. The cheapest and most-efficient way to improve it would be to keep it at its current location and swap land with neighboring property owned by Mary Lou Corn.
Superintendent Joy Tucker has been in discussion with Corn, who is willing to trade land for the project. Once the district is sole owner of the entire property, the track could be expanded to the proper size for competition and field improvements could be made with synthetic turf.
Additional classrooms are also high priorities at the middle and high school. Four classrooms are needed at both the middle and high school and could be easily added.
“We looked at a four-classroom addition as well as converting the middle school into a high school and moving the middle school here. It would nearly double the size. Another option would be to move the high school entry to the street you own, converting the current entry into classroom space,” Powers informed the board.
A detailed plan will be put together, highlighting all the data Ittner discovered during talks with the community. A plan of action will then be presented showing how improvements can be funded, when projects can begin, and options for where and how improvements can be made. This will be presented to the board during its regular February meeting.
In a special session last Friday night, the board approved putting a bond issue on the April ballot. “We spoke with (district attorney) Larry Hart. He informed us that if we put the bond issue on the August ballot it would have to received 67 percent to pass. If we put it on the April ballot, it would have to receive 57 percent,” Tucker told the board.
The $2.5 million bond, which would not increase the debt-service property tax levy, would be for the purpose of “providing funds to improve safety and security at the high school by constructing, equipping, and furnishing a new entry and to convert existing space to classrooms; to construct, equip, and furnish additional classrooms at the middle school; to convert the existing football/track facility to a multi-purpose athletic/band complex by installing a synthetic surface field and an eight-lane all weather track, and issue bonds for the payment thereof.”
Should the issue pass, the debt service would be extended from the 2023-24 school year to the 2032-33 school year without adjusting the levy of 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property.