Republic school district considering $16 million bond issue for new childhood education center and gym/storm shelter

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:23 PM CST
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The Republic School Board is meeting Thursday night (Jan. 21) to consider whether or not to bring a $16 million bond issue in front of voters in April.

Republic Superintendent Dr. Matt Pearce pointed out that the new bonds would simply allow the district to extend its debt and would not result in an increase in the current property taxes that residents pay.

Pearce said the reason for the move is because of growth in the area.

Republic is experiencing a boom in new industry with the likes of Amazon and Convoy of Hope distribution warehouses being built plus commercial developments that come along with that influx of businesses.

So the school system will need to grow with it.

“We’re expecting within the next four years that we’re gonna see an increase of about 500 students,” Pearce said.

With an enrollment over 5,000 the district has eight buildings including the high school, middle school, five elementary schools and an early childhood center.

One of the major proposals in the $16 million bond issue would build a new early childhood education center next door to Price elementary on the site of a former football stadium. The new childhood center would have a capacity of 300 students, allowing the district to increase its current enrollment of 40 pre-K children.

“Every year for our early childhood program and our pre-K we have a waiting list,” Pearce explained. “We are currently only serving about 10-15 percent of our students in our early childhood center. We would like to drastically increase that to above 50 percent and help out their academic and social structure when they enter school.”

Another major part of the bond issue would place a storm shelter/gym at Schofield elementary to serve three elementary schools clustered in that area. The other two elementary schools located near each other several blocks away already share a tornado shelter.

“We’re going to have the ability to put all of our pre-K students and all of our elementary students into some kind of storm shelter,” Pearce said if the bond were to pass. “Currently we have two of our elementary schools (Sweeny and Lyon) and our early childhood building that can shelter in a FEMA safe room. That leaves our other three buildings, Price, Schofield and McCulloch, who do not have a storm shelter.”

The bond issue would also allow the district to look for property for future projects as a new middle school or elementary might be needed if growth continues as expected.

The district is emphasizing that the bond is a “no tax increase” measure with property tax bills remaining the same if the bond issue is approved. So the real question before voters is do you want the school district to expand its debt? And you’re not eliminating the tax if you vote no.

“If the proposal doesn’t pass our taxes are not going to change,” Pearce said. “They’ll still remain at the same rate. And if it does pass, we would just extend that debt years into the future.”

If the measure does go before voters in April, the new facilities would be scheduled for completion by fall of 2022.

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