School District Asking for Bond Approval

by Carolyn Trower

One of the most important things a community can do is to make sure its children have the best educational opportunities possible. Over the years Ralls County citizens have met the needs for improvements in the school district. Additions have been made for Ag classes, band and choir, and weight training. Our district now has a consolidated campus which provides a tornado safe room and opportunities for the high school students to mentor elementary students. Each improvement was made to ensure the best possible learning environment for the county’s students.
The school district is again asking voters to help it meet new challenges in providing a safe and secure learning environment. Two questions will be on the April 7 ballot that ask for voters to approve bond issues that will provide $8,060,420 for projects that will enhance and strengthen the school’s safety network and make renovations to existing school facilities.
“It’s time,” said Ralls County R-II Superintendent Tara Lewis. “It’s about safety, security, and efficiency.” A committee of community members held meetings and renewed plans for over a year whittling the over 12-million-dollar proposal down to “the nuts and bolts” version at just over 8 million dollars. “These are changes that are needed,” added Lewis. “Every student is impacted in some way.”
One priority is to remove the asbestos floor tile in the junior high and the high school buildings. The tiles are original to the buildings’ construction and are cracking and in some places, falling apart completely leaving holes.
The 1959 administrative offices in the high school will be redesigned to just one supervised check point for added security. Additional security measures will be added to the 1959 and the 1970 detached buildings. The Highway 19 entry/exits will be reconfigured with MoDOT for an added turn lane and flashers to reduce the traffic speed from 60 mph to 50 mph. Additional parking will be added to the elementary lots, and exterior lighting will be added to all facilities and parking lots.
Other areas of concern for both safety and energy efficiency are the windows and doors in the 1959 and 1970 buildings. Double paned windows and new exterior doors will be installed. Some windows are sealed shut because they won’t lock, and some doors are prone to not latch securely and are easily opened.
Many citizens have expressed the desire to upgrade the athletic facilities. The bond monies will provide an all-weather surface for the track that will benefit community walkers and allow an expansion of field events.
With the sale of the Center Elementary property, much of the spectator parking was eliminated. The softball field will be moved to the school site and will eliminate the need for players to commute to practice and games.
The football field area will receive a ticketing/concession building, fixed bleachers, and fencing to provide security on the south side of the school complex.
The two questions guarantee the monies to ensure the 1959 and 1970 buildings meet today’s health and safety regulations. Missouri Law requires that the total be split into two questions: one for the $4,750,000 general obligation bond (no levy increase) and one for the $3,250,000 lease purchase. Only the second question will result in a raise in the tax levy from $2.75 to $2.95 per hundred dollars of assessed valuation or real and personal property. The tax levy has been the same since 1994. If passed, the tax levy would still be the third lowest rate for area school districts.
There will be more specific information provided in future editions of the paper. Dr. Lewis will be giving tours of the buildings during parent-teacher conferences in March and will accommodate additional tours upon request.