Two growing school districts in the region have $47 million bond issues each going before voters April 4.
The ballot measures for those living in the Nixa and Republic school districts have different types of projects proposed, but each seeks to address consistently growing student enrollment. While Nixa’s bond issue, if approved, would fund a variety of additional classrooms at existing buildings on its campus, Republic Schools wants to add a new building to recently purchased land at James River Freeway and Highway 60.
Both issues require a 57.14% majority to pass, according to state law.
For Republic School District’s $47 million bond issue proposal, it is the second time in two years that voters are weighing in on a major school project. A $16 million bond issue was approved in April 2021, allowing for the construction of a new early childhood center with a storm shelter, a gymnasium and storm shelter at Schofield Elementary, and funds to purchase property for a new school building, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
The new bond issue, which would not result in a tax levy increase but extends the existing levy, allows the district to build a new fifth and sixth grade center. The proposed facility is estimated to cost $42 million and would be roughly 125,000 square feet, with an expected capacity of 900-1,000 students, said Superintendent Matt Pearce.
“We want to build it and have a little room to move into, so to speak. Our general direction is we’re building for class sizes of 500,” he said, noting the school district’s grade levels generally range 400-425 students.
He estimated the building would have 850-875 students upon its targeted opening in the fall of 2025. It is expected to also include a gymnasium and storm shelter, media center and outdoor play areas.
The building would be constructed on a 78-acre tract of land the district purchased for $3.6 million from Robert Orr in December. Pearce said Orr lives in Tennessee and no longer used the property. The facility would likely occupy 25-30 acres of the land with the remainder left for future undetermined building projects, he said.
School officials say there was thought given to the risk of placing another bond issue on the ballot within a two-year span. But Pearce said with the district’s enrollment this year at 5,300, the need was warranted.
“The cost of not doing anything is probably greater than going ahead and moving forward. By that I mean if we grow as fast as we potentially could, there’s no way we’d be able to open up a building until 2026,” he said, noting the district is expecting up to 1,000 new students in the next three to five years. “That just is more time for people to move in, and the longer we wait, the higher the class sizes are going to get. That’s why we decided to put it on for this April.”
The new center would move roughly 400 sixth-grade students from the middle school and 80-100 fifth graders from each of the district’s five elementary buildings, according to officials. Pearce said it also would provide a gentler transition for students between fourth and seventh grades.
Regardless of the how the bond issue fares next month, officials say the school district’s tax levy will not change from its current rate of just over $4.12 per $100 of assessed valuation.
The $47 million bond issue for Nixa Public Schools has multiple projects on the agenda, if given approval by voters. Like Republic, school officials say the district’s tax levy of nearly $4.51 per $100 of assessed valuation will stay the same if the issue passes or fails. The tax levy also will be extended.
If passed, the bond issue would fund construction of new classrooms at High Pointe Elementary, as well as at the junior high and high school buildings. The addition at High Pointe also would include a storm shelter to be used for students at the elementary and Summit Intermediate School.
At the junior high, the district would make improvements to the performing arts theater and build additional activity space. More parking and activity space also would be added at the high school.
Additionally, parking and traffic improvements are targeted at Espy Elementary and John Thomas School of Discovery. Other proposed investments across the district by the bond issue include roofing and HVAC upgrades and repairs, as well as purchasing additional school buses and more maintenance equipment.
Nixa Superintendent Gearl Loden declined to break down costs for the individual projects, noting they won’t be finalized until bids are received. He said the bids will determine how much can be accomplished over the next three years.
“Once you issue your bonds, you have three years from that date to complete your projects,” he said.
Loden said enrollment growth has been steady, reaching 6,700 students this school year. It isn’t showing any signs of slowing down for the next few years, either.
“We’re projecting about 80-100 (students) per year at the district,” he said.
The mix of projects helps the district prepare for future growth while also attending to needs of the current students and needed building maintenance, officials say.
“You have the same issues that you’d have at a home,” Loden said of maintaining the district buildings, most of which were built 15-30 years ago. “It’s just that the numbers are higher.”
For example, at Century Elementary, the district had to replace its air conditioning system for $200,000. At the high school, the HVAC replacement cost was going to be $500,000, he said, which led to the decision to rebuild it for roughly $100,000.
The most recent school district bond issue in Nixa – a $15 million proposal that also didn’t raise taxes – was approved in 2019, according to past SBJ reporting.
“The community here has always passed the bonds. This is a well-rounded plan,” Loden said. “If something negative happens, we’ll dust our pants off, figure out what people didn’t like and go for it again. We’d tweak it and modify it – get the advice of our board and see what direction they want to go.”
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