Glenwood School District Voters To Decide Fate Of RPS

Polling sites will be open from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5.

As the vote to extend the Glenwood Community School District’s Revenue Purpose Statement grows near, the district is answering questions on what it has done and what it intends to do with the funds raised by the statewide one-cent educational tax fund.

The Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS), which will be put before voters March 5, allows the district to allocate funds from its Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) fund – that statewide one-cent educational sales tax – for school infrastructure projects. Glenwood’s RPS was approved in 2011 and has seven years remaining on its life. A 20-year extension would push that expiration date out to 2051.

The RPS – which would require a simple majority to pass – would also allow the district to address its impending facilities needs as it prepares for the upcoming closure of the Glenwood Resource Center. The campus currently houses the district’s Teaching, Health, Resilience, Independence, Values and Empathy (THRIVE) alternative high school program, the Kids Place daycare and the central office.

With the GRC slated to close this summer, the district is in dire need of facilities to house those programs.

An extension to the RPS would allow the district to seek a 15-year revenue bond – which does no require voter approval – to possibly build a 35,000 to 40,000 square foot prefab building on a parcel of land the district owns northeast of the high school to house Kids Place, the alternative high school and the district’s central office.  The cost of that building is estimated between $6.8 and $7 million.

The district has already said it plans to return to voters this upcoming November a scaled back version of the $40 million general obligation bond that failed to pass last fall. That new G.O. bond is slated to pay for the long discussed extensive remodel to Northeast Elementary and upgrades at West Elementary and the middle school, but it would exclude the Kids Place addition. That $35 bond would be $5 million less than the 2023 version.

But it’s the Revenue Purpose Statement on voters’ minds now.

In the past year, the district’s SAVE funds generated via the RPS has been used for projects ranging from HVAC and roof repairs to classroom updating and its 1-to-1-technology program.

Without the SAVE funds to help secure alternative housing, THRIVE and Kids place, two staples of the district, are threatened.

“The THRIVE program, as we know it, would likely go away, and Kids Place probably would too just from a space standpoint,” Embray said.

THRIVE is the school’s district’s alternative programming option offered to high school students that are at-risk of dropping out. As a dropout prevention program, their strategies for prevention include: credit recovery, counseling, self-paced classes, work placement, flexible scheduling, and community connections.

Embray went on to say the district is legally required to provide “alternative education” but that the district made the decision more than a decade ago to provide dropout prevention that goes “above and beyond.”

“We could do alternative educational programming in a classroom or in a pullout but most of these kids would probably dropout because the main reason they are in this program is there are no positive peer contacts, no positive adult contacts and rules and the policies and procedures that we normally have in our normal high school setting are difficult for them to comply with,” Embray said. “Being in a separate facility and having a different programmatic outlook is causing success.

Having that program in the high school will allow us to, yes, check a box and say we do have alternative education but it will be nothing like we do with THRIVE now.”

Kids Place faces a similar space crunch should it be forced off the GRC campus. The district’s daycare that has operated for more than 40 years has “unique space needs” dedicated for childcare.

“To my knowledge, we don’t have that space in town and if we’re not up on the hill, we don’t have a solution meaning Kids Place would likely go away,” Embray said.  “We have to have the physical space to put it. And we don’t have it.”

Embray added Kids Place would need approximately 13,000 to 15,000 square feet to operate. The program is self-sustaining with all its operating expenses coming from tuition costs.

Adding to questions about the future of those programs on the GRC campus is the district’s use of its unspent SAVE balance, which as of the end of fiscal year 2023 was $5.8 million.

The district has faced push back in recent weeks as its makes plans to use SAVE funds to secure a revenue bond to build a new building became clear while those funds seemingly sat in reserve.

But Embray said most of that money is already earmarked. Since 2008 the district has followed a practice of holding one year – or approximately $2.5 million – of the allocated funds in reserve for emergencies. An additional $1.8 million held back “the last few years” will go to pay off the Glenwood Activities Complex bond in June of this year.

That remaining $1.5 million, Embray added, has been at least partially dedicated to other district infrastructure projects.

Embray estimated $500,000 of the remaining unspent balance would likely go towards the proposed new Kids Place/THRIVE/central office building. The district is also planning to apply for a handful of grants to assist with the potential project.

Embray said the district has made every effort to “get the word out on the Revenue Purpose Statement” and the district’s financial and infrastructure needs with informational meetings and its website.

Now the decision is in voters hands.

“If the result is positive, you go forward with the plans you have,” Embray said.

If its negative, he added, then you regroup.

“Sometimes if things go negative, people come forward and provide solutions that no one was able to craft or realize because no one was providing that solution prior to the vote. If it is a negative vote, who knows what happens? Maybe a donor comes forward and it’s important to them and they’re willing to step forward with a solution. I have no idea if that will or can happen.”

Last fall, 35 Iowa school districts approved RPS extensions, according to Embray.


The Opinion-Tribune

116 S Walnut St Glenwood, IA 51534-1665
P.O. Box 377, Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-527-3191
Phone: 712-623-2566
Fax: 712-527-3193

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