The Eldon R-1 School District Board of Education unanimously approved putting a $5.6 million bond issue on the April 8 ballot for various district-wide improvements, including construction of a tornado safe room and Early Childhood Learning Center, at its Jan. 27 meeting.
The bond issue, called Proposition 2 or Keep Improving District Schools (KIDS) on the ballot, would be an extension of the district's current bond issue, which has 14 years of repayment remaining. If approved by voters, it would extend the district's debt service to 20 years, ending no later than 2032. The bond issue would not affect tax rates and requires a super-majority of 51.14 percent in favor to pass.
The 9,000-square-foot, free-standing storm shelter would be located between the district's South and Upper Elementary schools in what is currently a bus loading zone. Construction of the building would be funded in part by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant. The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency has initially agreed to pay $885,000 of the building's $2.3 million total cost, with $1,385,660 available to go toward total project costs, leaving the district responsible for at least $346,415 in local-match funds.
"One of the highest priorities of our schools is to keep our kids safe," according to the bond issue's proposed scope of work approved by Eldon R-1 Superintendent Matt Davis. "This new structure will help protect our students, faculty and community members in the event of severe weather at the elementary campus."
The safe room must be able to accommodate 1,200 people entering the facility within five minutes. To meet this requirement, about 3,500 square feet will comprise a large multipurpose room, which will be available for the middle and high school wrestling teams to use for after-school practice during their season, Parents as Teachers activities and indoor recess.
The storm shelter also will double as an Early Childhood Learning Center, housing two early childhood special education classrooms along with the district's physical and occupational therapists and the Parents as Teachers program.
The district plans to work with the local emergency management team to ensure the shelter will be available for community use when school is not in session.
Funds borrowed through the bond issue would also go toward a $1.5 million renovation of the school district's fine arts auditorium. Built in 1956, the fine arts building's most recent renovation, which added the gymnasium, occurred in 1984 after its original roof collapsed due to snow.
The new renovation would add a band and choir room along with four classrooms built so they would not be disturbed by music practices elsewhere in the building. It would also improve the auditorium's stage and seating capacity, which is currently 500 seats.
"The problem is that 200 of those seats are in areas that do not provide quality viewing of the stage. The school district would like to have an auditorium that could seat 700 people with quality viewing and a stage that is large enough to hold our high school band for performances. We would also like the fine arts auditorium to be able to hold all of our elementary programs," Davis said in the proposed scope of work document. "We are currently meeting with the architects on a design that would work with those expectations in mind and to also improve handicap accessibility."
Some patrons have expressed concerns about whether the district should continue improving the building, as it has known issues with water leaks.
"I think it is too expensive of a building to not utilize it and keep using it," Davis said. "I feel renovating this facility is better than building new. I think it meets our needs and saves us money in the long run."
Davis said even after the renovation the district would continue using the building for purposes not concerned with the water issues.
Other potential improvements include $750,000 of safety upgrades such as double-doored lobby areas for the South Elementary, Upper Elementary and Middle schools; new security cameras; additional parking at South Elementary; a safer floor in the Upper Elementary gymnasium; additional fencing around the elementary school; better exterior lighting; new wiring for the high school intercom system; and a handicap-accessible elevator at the Eldon Career Center.
An estimated $500,000 would be dedicated to technology infrastructure updates, along with $900,000 for HVAC system upgrades and $500,000 for asphalt improvement in bus parking areas.