District to share bond issue facts
Voters will choose whether to grant De Soto USD 232 schools a $105.7 million bond issue in a referendum this November.
District communications director Alvie Cater said the district would have a series of meetings to introduce the bond issue to patrons and parents.
"The school district cannot tell people to vote 'Yes,'" Cater said. "What we can do is provide information. We want to make sure they have accurate information, so they can in turn make an educated decision when they go to vote."
The last day to register to vote in the Johnson County Election Office is Oct. 23.
Also on the ballot for De Soto voters are candidates for Kansas governor, state attorney general, insurance commissioner, the 3rd Kansas Congressional District, Johnson County Commission, Kansas House and the state board of education. Voters may submit ballots in advance, but Tuesday, Nov. 7 is the last day to vote.
For more information, visit the Johnson County Election Office Web site, www.jocoelection.org.
The school board crafted the bond issue to address the growing student population of about 300 to 400 new students each year. The bond issue would add to the student capacities of De Soto and Mill Valley high schools and build auxiliary gymnasiums for each, build two new elementary schools, add a new band room to Monticello Trails Middle School and add on to Starside Elementary School in De Soto. It would also build an addition to the district's sixth elementary school at 71st and Chouteau in Shawnee that would serve as an early childhood education center for the west side of the district.
Cater said 5 percent of the bond money would go toward updating technology at the district's existing buildings and the buildings that haven't been finished yet.
The plan would also set aside $4 million to purchase land so the district will have a place to build schools when De Soto starts to grow.
"We may need that land five years from now, and we'd like to buy the land at today's prices," Cater said.
He also said the plan includes contingency for each project to make up for rising construction costs. In the 2002 bond issue, voters approved funds for three new elementary schools but the district was only able to build two. One, Prairie Ridge Elementary School, opened in 2005. The other at 71st and Chouteau is set to open in 2007. The district couldn't afford to build a third because of events like Hurricane Katrina and gasoline price inflation that led to higher construction and labor costs.
Cater said the contingency funds would help keep projects intact.
The expansion of the two high schools would increase Mill Valley's capacity from 1,000 to 1,250 students and De Soto High School's capacity from 750 to 1,000 students. Cater said the additions of auxiliary auditoriums and bigger weight rooms would help accommodate extra students.
"There's a statewide emphasis on healthy lifestyles," he said. "More students are enrolling in physical fitness classes, not just athletes."
Cater also said student athletes were arriving at the schools as early as 5:30 a.m. for practice and staying as late as 9:30 p.m. because of lack of gym space.
Monticello Trails Middle School has outgrown its band room and the bond issue would pay for a single classroom added onto the school building. The old room would be used as classroom space.
The district plans to have a variety of information available at its community meetings and its Web site, www.usd232.org.