Lindbergh School District voters to weigh $14.1 million bond issue

By KAREN CALLANAN

Staff Reporter

Lindbergh School District voters will consider a $14.1 million bond issue de-signed to address safety issues at all district schools when they go to the polls Tuesday, April 8.

Proposition 4 – “for the future, for kids” on all four levels: early childhood education, elementary, middle school and high school – would increase the district’s tax rate by about 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to $2.87 per $100 from the current rate of $2.77. The measure requires a four-sevenths’ majority for approval.

If approved, projects would be done mostly during the summers of 2004 and 2005, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Pat Lanane.

Existing treated-lumber play structures will be replaced with metal and plastic playground equipment at the early childhood center at Concord School and the district’s elementary schools.

Some of the equipment is 40 years old, but even the newer equipment has arsenic in it and must be treated regularly, according to Marla Dell, Board of Education president who is serving as chairman of the ad-vocacy campaign.

At the early childhood education center, the “action room,” which is an old gymnasium, will be renovated with an improved ceiling, lighting, flooring and air conditioning. In the “action room,” Dell ex-plained that the ceiling currently leaks when it rains and the floor floods.

Improvements at Crestwood, Kennerly and Sappington elementary schools would include traffic-flow, parking and playground projects as well as putting up fencing outside a kindergarten playground area at Crestwood.

Kennerly has yellow lines painted on the pavement instead of a sidewalk, so a new sidewalk will be added there, Dell said.

She gave examples of cars parking back to back at Sappington so that one is unable to leave until the other car leaves first. In addition, the ball fields currently do not have disabled accessibility, she added.

At Long Elementary, some playground improvements are planned with the addition of a walkway and some fencing.

“Truman has over 700 kids; their library is smaller than our smallest school’s, which is 300 kids,” Dell said. The library will be expanded so that it is adequate for the school’s size.

In addition, the Truman campus is comprised of three buildings and children currently must walk outside to access the cafeteria. The courtyard will be enclosed and covered to be inside the building.

The music room, practice and storage area will be rebuilt at Sperreng.

“The orchestra, the band, and the choirs are the best in the county, basically. They are so good and they’re huge,” Dell said. “They’re packed in there and they have no room to play. The storage room for instruments is the age of the building itself and is not adequate for all the instruments now.”

In addition, pupils practice solo and en-semble pieces in the hallway, she said.

At the high school, a 25-meter-by-25-yard pool would be constructed at the current pool site at a cost of $4.1 million. The pool is very much needed, Dell explained, because the current pool’s deep end is only 10 feet, which is not deep enough for diving, and the shallow end is too shallow for the starting blocks to be positioned there. The crowd’s bleachers are unsafe because they are so close to the pool and swimmers that spectators get wet, Dell continued.

The locker room problems will be addressed as locker doors are missing and they are very old. The girls’ locker room is half the size of the boys’ locker room and inadequate for current usage, Dell said.

A multipurpose room will be constructed at the high school with high ceilings and proper flooring for poms and cheerleaders to practice, as well as for community use and classrooms.

Parking issues at the high school will also be addressed, especially because the old Target lot will be off limits for high school parking next year, Dell said.

District voters last August rejected Proposition L, a $14.1 million bond issue for high school building improvements, about half of which would have gone to build a new swimming pool. The measure would have added parking and a pedestrian walkway in the center of the campus buildings.

However, Superintendent Jim Sandfort said that the difference between the old proposition and the current Proposition 4 is that the breadth of the proposal is much wider now, covering all the schools.

Roughly $9.6 million would be spent on the high school campus, while $4.5 would be used at other schools. The safety concerns are parallel, he said, but “it just has brought in safety concerns from all the campuses. The facilities, instead of focusing primarily on one campus, now has addressed those facility needs on other campuses as well,” he said.

After Proposition L failed, a new committee including those opposed to Proposi-tion L, re-evaluated the district’s needs and reported to the Board of Education.

“We listened to the response of the community,” Dell said. “It’s more utilitarian than what the previous proposal was, and I think the folks who looked at this have said: ‘Well, this is something we can support. We weren’t necessarily enthusiastic about the previous proposal, but this is something we can now support.'”

Sandfort said people were willing to step in and not just say what was wrong with the proposal, but helped to reformulate it so that this would meet the needs of the kids in the community.

Sandfort, Lanane and Dell said that they have not heard any opposition to the new proposal, and no other organized groups have filed in opposition with the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners.

Dell said they urge anyone with questions or concerns to address the Board of Edu-cation members or district officials and perhaps take a tour of the facilities.

The reason why the first proposition did not include all of the current proposals is because the Board of Education set a ceiling level of 10 cents when first looking at the high school campus, it already re-quired some elimination.

“When the community turned down that proposition and said: ‘You need to rethink the design, the scope, the magnitude of some of these projects. We believe they’re still too big and too all-encompassing and too focused on just the high school campus.’ Then the board established another review committee, cut down the size, scope of those projects about $4 million, which then allowed the opportunity to bring in projects and needs from other campuses,” Dell said. “There are always more needs at any school district … It’s what do you include in the proposal, the project you’re going to take forward to the public? By cutting down the scope, the size of the projects on the high school campus, other projects were able to be brought into the proposal and then set forth to the public.”

Officials did not hear that 10 cents was too much, Dell added, but that voters were not ready to embrace the plan. “So keeping the 10 cents, we could reduce the scope of the original plan and add things that were needs to begin with, but that would have taken it over 10 cents,” she said.

Lanane said the community said: “If you’re going to have a districtwide election on a bond proposal, it better be a districtwide proposal, and we listened.”

While national and state issues are somewhat uncertain at this time, the district officials said local needs are a separate investment.

“Economic cycles change, but what the board is looking at is a long-term investment of facility improvements that will be there for 15, 20, 30 years, and so three years from now the cycle may change, but this is something you have to plan and bring to the public as they’re needed,” Sandfort said.

Because the economy is slow right now, Lanane said interest costs are about half of what they have been historically, which will allow the district to do more for the same dollar now than what it has been able to do in about a decade.

“It’s the perfect time in a sense of the bang you can get for your buck,” he said.

“The other point is, for a local community, the single biggest investment that most of our taxpayers have is their own property, and we think this is kind of a small investment for the community at large to protect their individual property values,” Lanane added.

Sandfort said that the school district is a selling point in the community, and it must have the facilities to allow the quality programs to continue.

Dell said she believes the election will be close because sometimes senior citizens or young people feel like they cannot or do not want to spend the money, so the advocacy group is hoping that the people af-fected the most will go out and vote. The existing facilities were paid for by previous generations, and now it is time for the current generation to help out, she added.