School District Hosts First Bond Issue Forum

Northeast Elementary School Principal Ashlie Salazar gives parents a tour of the school building at the conclusion of Thursday night’s forum.

Thursday's forum was the first of four the school district is hosting in the multipurpose room at Northeast Elementary.

The first public forum for the Glenwood Community School District’s upcoming $39.9 million bond issue attracted a sparse crowd to Northeast Elementary School Thursday evening.

Approximately 25 people were at the forum, with about one-third of those in attendance representing the school district (administrators, school board members, consultants).
GCSD Superintendent Dr. Devin Embray gave an overview of the proposed project before fielding questions.

Approximately 75 percent of the bond funds would pay for an extensive renovation of Northeast Elementary School, including an addition that would house Kid’s Place Daycare facility (currently housed at the Glenwood Resource Center), a multipurpose gymnasium, administrative offices, security enhancements and infrastructure updates – geothermal heating and cooling, parking lot expansion, traffic lane revisions and landscaping.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting improvements at the Glenwood Middle School are also included in the proposal. The building’s original 1964 boiler, which Embray said is about 50-55 efficient, would be replaced with a high-efficiency boiler that’s 98 percent efficient.

“We originally looked at doing geothermal at the middle school as well, but when you look at not touching the complete building but you’re just touching the HVAC of the building, it doesn’t come out cost-effective to geothermal,” he said.

Another major component of the proposal is the establishment of “Inventionland” innovation labs and classrooms – contemporary learning spaces designed to inspire creativity and student engagement – at both Northeast and West Elementary schools. The innovative learning model would provide maker space areas and hands-on learning experiences for students.

Embray said recent studies and data suggests students with access to creative learning and maker space areas are more engaged in the learning process and experience a significant increase in student achievement.

The “innovation curriculum” would be incorporated into content curriculum where appropriate. It’s intended to be supplemental curriculum, not a replacement to current content curriculum.

The first question / comment from the audience was about the impact passage would have on property taxes. The district has been promoting the fact that the bond debt for construction of Glenwood Community High School will be retired in 2025, at about the same time the new debt would be incurred (with bond issue passage), resulting in about a 15-cent (per $1,000 assessed value) increase in property taxes above the current level.

An unidentified member of the audience, however, said a big concern among school district residents is the expectation that property taxes would go down once the high school debt is retired. He also suggested the district could be more transparent about the stand-alone cost of the new debt, stating that most people don’t know what they’re paying right now to pay off the district’s debt for construction of the high school.

Embray said currently, property owners are paying $3.04 (per $1,000 assessed value) for the existing high school debt.  \

“I’m trying to be transparent,” Embray said. “The current tax that we have, you’re paying that right now. What we’re saying is, based on the current rate, this project will be less than a 15-cent increase.”
If the bond issue passes in November, the new debt is projected to be paid off in about 20 years.

Audience members also had questions about other issues, including the potential relocation of Kid’s  Place to Northeast, return on investment and staff commitment to the innovative curriculum concept, enrollment projections and the district’s potential acquisition of the GRC administration building (see related article).

At the conclusion of the forum, Northeast Principal Ashlie Salazar provided audience members with a tour of the school building.

The forum was the first of four the district is hosting before the Nov. 7 bond issue vote. Future forum dates are Sept. 26, Oct. 12 and Nov. 2 – all taking place at 6 p.m. in the Northeast Elementary School multipurpose room.

A 60-percent (super majority) “Yes” vote is required for passage of the bond issue.

The Opinion-Tribune

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