A $156 million bond issue for the Olathe School District is headed to ballots in June after receiving approval from the Olathe Board of Education.
The bond issue would not need a property tax increase because a previous bond issue has expired.
A large part of the bond, about $46 million, would be to buy land and build a new middle school. John Hutchison, chief financial and operations officer for the district, said that Mission Trail and Prairie Trail middle schools are seeing their student population increase too much for their current capacities.
Olathe’s middle schools are built to have approximately 800 students each. Both Mission Trail and Prairie Trail will exceed that number next year, and Hutchison projected that by the 2019-2020 school year, Mission Trail would have 1,100 students unless the district builds a new school.
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“We’ve been growing since 1965,” Hutchison said. “Every year we’ve had a larger student body than the year before.”
The new school would be in the western or northwestern part of the district.
Voters approved a $244.8 million bond in 2013 with 77 percent of the vote. Among other improvements, that bond allowed the district to start constructing Olathe West High School, projected to open in 2017.
“We know it’s tough budget times in Kansas, and we’re conscious of that. We’ve really vetted this list out to make sure we’re addressing what we absolutely need,” Hutchison said. “We owe it to our students to provide adequate learning spaces for them.”
In addition to the new school, the bond would also fund several other updates and improvements across the district. New security features include new and replacement cameras and keyless access systems for schools’ exterior doors.
Also on the list are new floors for school gyms. Currently most of the elementary schools have carpeted floors. The new flooring, piloted at Countryside Elementary School, is a synthetic padded material that Hutchison said would be easier for schools to clean and maintain.
The district wants to use part of the bond’s funds to replace computer servers, computer lab equipment and student devices such as iPads.
“Student devices have a life of about four years,” Hutchison said. “It’s wear and tear, and if you think about that first generation iPad, you can’t update that operating system (anymore).”
Santa Fe Trail and Oregon Trail middle schools are also in line for improvements such as new roofing, heating and cooling systems, new flooring and lighting in the classrooms and changes to the front reception areas.
“We’re pretty fortunate that if we can communicate the needs to (residents), they pass,” Hutchison said. “We make sure we do planning and involve public along the way.”
Beth Lipoff: firstname.lastname@example.org
The district will be holding public meetings to discuss the bond plans in the next few months. For more information on the bond issue, visit www.olatheschools.com/bond2016.