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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Kelly bond issue back on ballot

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Kelly High School teacher works with students in the school's computer lab. Passage of the bond issue would allow expansion of computer facilities.
BENTON -- When the bell rings to end each period at Kelly High School, senior Ashley Essner assured, "You don't want to be there."

Essner described the four-minute break as an elbow-to-elbow race to get to class.

"People are running into you and then when you're trying to get into your locker, you try not to hit other people with your locker door," Essner said. "And then you get tardies for being late."

Superintendent Don Moore agreed overcrowding in the high school hallways -- and classrooms for that matter, is a major issue for the district.

"And the state projects our high school to grow by 385 students in about three years," Moore said.

Last year the district gained around 25 students, bringing total enrollment to 1,041.

But overcrowdedness is just one of the things that prompted the district's board of education to place a $3.5 million bond issue on the April 5 ballot. The proposed new high school building includes a 34,959-square-foot building with 15 classrooms and a library at an estimated cost of $2.6 million. The remaining $900,000 would go toward a new multipurpose gym/

cafeteria area.

This marks the seventh time in eight years the district is looking to its voters to pass a bond issue. And the main difference this time? There's no tax increase.

"No one likes taxes, and this is our effort to be sensitive to those with fixed incomes," Moore said.

The district's tax levy of $3.17 would remain the same due to the 1993 bond issue that expires in 2008. If the issue passes, the 42-cent tax blended with the expiring bond issue would be extended for another 20 years to cover the cost of the new school.

And Kelly has the lowest tax levy of all districts with a high school in Scott County, but it has the second highest enrollment of all the high schools, Moore pointed out.

In addition to alleviating overcrowding conditions in the high school, the proposed building, which would connect to the high school gym, would also permit the middle school and elementary school students to spread out and take better advantage of the existing structure, Moore said.

The project would also eliminate the need to have students in three mobile units, Moore said.

Air conditioning units, floors and rotted walls have already been replaced on many of the modular units, which are less than 10 years old.

Moore also pointed out there's a safety issue with the use of modular units, especially when it comes to severe weather.

Anytime there is a storm watch, administrators are constantly watching and contemplating whether to move the students, some of which are wheelchair-

bound, into a building, Moore noted.

"It's not as easy as it sounds. There have been times when we've been caught off guard by a severe thunderstorm," Moore said, adding it's a good thing they do drills.

Moore said a science curriculum expansion and computer lab would be included in the new classrooms.

According to business teacher Joel Evans, a computer lab is definitely needed.

"At the beginning of the year, I had 22 computers and 25 students enrolled in my class," Evans said.

Although there are nine computers available in the high school library, those are often used by students taking college courses. And many times the computers in the library are full so other students must use Evans' room while he's teaching another class.

A four-sevenths majority vote is needed for the issue to pass next month. The last time the issue was on the ballot was in April 2002, and it accompanied a 19-cent per $100 assessed valuation tax increase. It failed by only about 20 more yes votes.

Kelly voters have approved bond issues in the past, but the district has been a little unsuccessful over the years, Moore said. Now school officials are looking to get the same kind of support and pride back in the district, he said.

Janie Merrick said she worries the district will start to lose quality students to other schools if facilities aren't expanded.

"Kelly will always have a quality education, but I feel the community needs to send out a yes message because building up the community and having a positive view of the school go together," Merrick said. "Anyone who is moving into the district or already lives there needs to know that community support is there."

A graduate of Kelly High School, Merrick is also president of Builders for Tomorrow, a group advocating the bond issue. She said she has no children attending Kelly Schools and is just an interested citizen.

"The school is the pulse of a community," Merrick said. "It's a must."

School officials will hold a public meeting about the bond issue at 6 p.m. Tuesday.