The Northwest R-1 Board of Education plans to ask voters in April to approve the bond issue.
School board members agreed in a November 10 business session to issue bonds worth between $24 million and $30 million on the April ballot to generate money for safety and security updates to all district buildings, as well as to pay for some additions and renovations.
The bond issue would not require a tax increase, though it would expand bond debt in the region.
District spokesman Chuck McPherson said on November 18 that he did not know how long the debt would be extended.
The Board of Directors is expected to determine the exact amount of the bond issue and the language of the ballot at the December 15th meeting.
Northwest School District officials are working on a five-year facilities plan that calls for building renovations to be completed before an expected drop in enrollment results in lower revenue.
The district hired Springfield firm Paragon Architecture to prepare a demographics and enrollment study to help paint a clearer picture of where enrollment will be over the next decade, as well as to plan for proposed renovations, should the bond issue pass.
Brad Irwin of Paragon Architecture provided the school board with a draft version of that study on November 16, indicating that student enrollment numbers are declining. It showed an expected decline of between 6 percent and 14 percent over the next ten years.
The current enrollment for the area is 5,726, Irwin said, and statistical models predict that it will drop to between 4,990 and 5,454 by 2032-2033.
This decline has been attributed to several factors, including fewer children being born within the region; an aging population with an increasing population of 60 and over; and the lack of new home construction or family-oriented new homes.
Irwin said that only 150 people are expected to move to the area over the next decade.
Because of the expected drop in enrollment, he said, the Northwest District “doesn’t need to add any new classes” because they won’t find themselves “in a crisis.”
However, he recommended that the district continue to invest in existing structures.
These assessments align with what the school board sees, which led them to set up committees last year to develop a master plan.
Part of this plan includes the proposed bond issue and a blueprint for district-level improvements that will be funded by the revenue it will generate.
Although the focus of construction will be on Valley Middle School, every building will be “touched up” as part of these proposed safety and security renovations, said Jennifer Hector, Northwest Superintendent.
According to design blueprints provided by the Northwest School District, total cost estimates for the projects range from $25,472,000 to $26,808,000.
District-wide improvements will include new fire alarm panels, telephone system upgrades, monitoring system upgrades and intercom system replacements, as well as renovations to entrances at Woodridge Middle School, High Ridge, Cedar Springs, and Brennan Woods Elementary Schools and upgrades to playground equipment at all elementary schools. High Ridge Primary School will also see plumbing renovations, while Murphy Primary School will see storm water drainage improvements.
Brennan Woods, Cedar Springs, and Maple Grove Elementary Schools will receive “site distributions,” which means new drive/walking lanes and parking lots. Maple Grove will also see the construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant elevator.
At Valley Middle School, restrooms will be renovated, an addition to a fine arts classroom will be built, and security gates and awnings will be installed.
An outdoor tricycle track will be set up at the Early Childhood Center.
Also, improvements will be made to the area’s bus hangar.
Finally, House Springs Elementary will see the construction of a gymnasium addition, and improvements to Northwest High School will include outdoor classroom wing enclosures; add multi-purpose sports; and new furniture, fixtures and equipment to add multi-purpose athletics. A total of $1,670,000 in fees has been allocated to Paragon Architecture.