If the bond passes, Red Bridge Elementary School will be enlarged by two classrooms, eliminating the current use of trailers. Photo by Talal Alaseeri.

Center Bond Kickoff

By John Sharp

A community forum and campaign kickoff for the Center School District’s no tax increase $48 million bond issue that will be on the April 2 ballot will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, February 9, at Holmeswood Baptist Church, 9700 Holmes Rd.

Members of the public are invited to attend and ask any questions they have about the bond issue to fund capital improvements at all district schools which will need the approval of four-sevenths (57.1 percent) of those voting to pass.  The free event is hosted by Citizens for Center, the campaign committee supporting the bond issue.

District officials have stressed that more space is needed at some of its schools to accommodate significant enrollment increases at all four of its elementary schools and at its middle school since 2013 and that its aging facilities need energy conservation improvements and other upgrades and major repairs, as well as security improvements.  The last bond issue in the district for facility upgrades was in 2009.

The biggest single project to be funded by the bonds will be the replacement of the undersized Indian Creek Elementary School (where some students are eating lunch in the hallways) that many district officials have said has design flaws with a new building at the site which can accommodate recent enrollment growth.  The cost of the new school is estimated to be $18.6 million.

The district originally was debating on whether to remodel and enlarge the current building or replace it, but the school board decided since the cost of remodeling and enlarging the building was nearly as high as constructing a new building, it made more sense to construct a larger and more modern building with a more functional design that would be a longer lasting community asset.

Red Bridge Elementary School will be enlarged by adding two classrooms on the east side of the building to accommodate higher enrollment and eliminate the current use of mobile trailers to provide classroom space.  That is estimated to cost $1.7 million, and HVAC, kitchen, lighting, main office and roof improvements are estimated to cost an additional $2.6 million. Cafeteria and gym renovations at the school are possible if funds are available.

Another major project that is under consideration for bond financing is acquiring and renovating a building that can be used to expand the district’s pre-kindergarten program currently located at Boone Elementary School.

School Superintendent Dr. Sharon Nibbelink said the district’s goal is to offer universal full-day pre-kindergarten instruction to the 200-250 four-year-olds in the district.  Center’s current program is for only half the day and is not universal.

“Our kindergarten teachers can clearly tell which students have gone to pre-kindergarten and which haven’t,” she said.

Security improvements estimated to cost a little over $2 million will include installing secure entryways at all schools and upgrading communications systems and security cameras.  At a recent meeting of the Center Planning & Development Council, both Beverly Cunningham, current school board president, and Merrell Bennekin, former president and co-chair of the bond campaign, stressed the importance of providing safety and security for students and teachers.

“In most of our buildings you can be buzzed in and have free rein,” Bennekin said.

The most recent bond campaign fact sheet notes most of the district’s schools will need the addition of a glass-enclosed entryway leading to the front office, with a separately locked entrance to the rest of the building, but Center Alternative School and Center Elementary School will require more extensive modifications.

The fact sheet listed the following improvements that will be made at other district schools if the bond issue passes and their cost estimates.

Boone Elementary School – $4.2 million for access improvements for persons with disabilities, a new HVAC system, interior door replacements, lighting modernization, restroom renovation and roof improvements.

Center Elementary School – $1.7 million for HVAC improvements, lighting modernization, restroom renovation and roof improvements.

Center Middle School – $4.4 million for HVAC improvements, kitchen upgrades, lighting modernization, main office remodeling, restroom renovation and roof improvements.

Center Alternative School – $1.3 million for ground source heating upgrades, lighting modernization, restroom renovation, retaining wall repairs and roof improvements.

Center High School – $5.7 million for access improvements for people with disabilities, major HVAC improvements, kitchen upgrades, lighting modernization, restroom renovation and roof improvements.

Passage of the bond issue has been endorsed by the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the South Kansas City Alliance.