De Soto USD 232 bond issue approved
The third time proved to be a charm Tuesday as De Soto USD 232 voters approved a $75 million school bond.
Unofficial final results from the Johnson County Election Office show the bond passed with 55.65 percent of the vote, 8,431 to 6,729.
At a gathering at Mill Creek Middle School, supporters of the bond referendum and district administrators tentatively declared victory about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday given the rough numbers gathered from polling places and the advance votes the Johnson County Election Office had just released.
The $75 million bond package will increase capacity at Mill Valley High School from 1,000 to 1,400 students, De Soto High School from 750 to a 1,000 students and build a new 600-capacity elementary school in northwest Shawnee.
The results are an immense relief for many like Chris Akin, a Shawnee resident and member of the Vote Yes Committee who has worked to promote passage of the past bond issues.
“I’m just ecstatic for all kids in our district that the patrons came through and supported their future and education, because schools are the center of our community,” she said.
Voters narrowly defeated a $105.7 million bond referendum proposal in November 2006, and then, in September 2007, voted down a $70.5 million, two-question bond referendum in a mail-ballot special election.
District Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said she could only speculate why the bond referendum passed this time around, but she hoped it was because of the district’s efforts to listen to the patrons.
“I would like to think a piece of this is the survey we did of our community last January,” she said. “The message that came back was keep it as small as you can, and take care of immediate needs, and that’s what our board members worked on.”
She said school board members’ active role in helping the community understand the issue likely helped, as well.
Akin agreed, saying simplicity in the bond issue — just three main projects — may have been the key.
“It was simple, it was a pared down, people understand it,” she said. “It just made sense to folks. We also worked real hard canvassing and getting information out to people, and a lot of people got on board that hadn’t been before.”
The school district is already in the process of beginning the construction projects. The school board Monday is set to select architects from three finalists and get things moving for Mill Valley and the new elementary school as soon as possible.
“We are in a tight time frame to get things finished by 2010,” Zoellner said.
De Soto High renovations are expected to be completed in 2011.
Final votes have yet to be tallied, but supporters are hopeful that unlike the close 2006 results, this time, with a high voter turnout and larger margin of victory, it’s for real.
“The issue in 2002 was our last victory,” Akin said. “… It’s great to have that feeling again after losing in 2006 and 2007.”
With passage of the bond, the Board of Education must select an architect to design the high school expansions and the new elementary school. Last month, the board listened to presentations from firms still under consideration for that contract. Hollis Miller, who has been the district's architect for the last three bond issues, is one of the three finalists. Joining them are ACI/Frangkisser Hutchens Inc. of Leawood, Kansas City, Mo., and St. Louis and Horst, Terrill and Karst Architects of Topeka and Overland Park.
Jack Deyoe, district operations and planning director, said the firm would be named at a special board meeting Monday
Deyoe said the selected architect firm would need to start as soon as possible on the design of the Mill Valley expansion and the new elementary school.
The goal will be to have exterior construction of the Mill Valley expansion finished before the winter of 2009-2010 so that work can continue to finish the new space by August 2010, he said.
It is also a goal to move up design and construction of the new elementary school near 58th and Belmont streets in Shawnee to avoid inflationary pressure in the construction industry, Deyoe said. The new elementary school will relief crowding of schools along the eastern side of the district particularly Horizon and Clear Creek elementaries, he said.
“We can use it as soon as they can get it open,” Deyoe said.
Just how soon the school can be constructed is dependent on its design, Deyoe said. If the design for Horizon is used or one that the selected architect used elsewhere can be applied, the school could be completed by August 2010, Deyoe. More upfront design work would push that date back, he said.