Board Meeting Highlights
What Happened at the Board of Education Meeting Jan. 14, 2019 What follows are highlights, not minutes, of the meeting.
Space and Safety Recommendation
The Board of Education agreed to place a $22 million no-tax-rate increase bond issue proposition on the April 2 ballot. The funds would be used to relieve overcrowding in the elementary schools; improve accessibility, safety and other space needs in all of the district’s buildings; and once again establish a neighborhood school in a northern area of the district.
Passage of the bond issue – titled Proposition E -- requires a 4/7 favorable vote. If approved, the district would maintain its current debt service levy of 56.99 cents for every $100 of assessed value. Proposition E would provide an addition at Hixson, allowing sixth grade students to be moved there, and convert Steger sixth Grade Center into an elementary school, along with additional accessibility and safety enhancements for all schools.
The board’s vote to move forward came after several months of community discussions, including meetings, focus groups and surveys. Superintendent John Simpson said that the ballot measure “presents the best thinking and recommendations of district administration to the Board of Education regarding the path forward with respect to maintaining, improving and right-sizing district facilities in support of student learning and achievement.”
Regarding the no-tax-increase proposal, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Ellerman said, “As a direct result of strong fiscal management and the implementation of numerous efficiency initiatives by the Board of Education and district administration during the past three years, funding resources are now available for important space, safety and accessibility priorities while maintaining the current tax rate.”
If approved, $6 million will be used for safety and accessibility enhancements that include secure doors and vestibules for all buildings, asbestos abatement, secure interior and classroom doors, secure exterior doors, elevators and chairlifts.
Another $16 million would be used to construct additional space at Hixson Middle School. Sixth grade students would move to Hixson and Steger Sixth Grade Center would be converted into a neighborhood elementary school, named Dr. Henry Givens Jr. Elementary. The district plans to find another way to honor the Steger name.
Adding a new elementary school will require redrawing school boundaries, which will take effect in 2021-22. All kindergarten through fourth grade students enrolled in other schools up to 2020-21, however, will have the opportunity to finish at their schools. The process to develop new boundary lines would begin after the election.
2021-22 kindergartners and students new to the district that year will attend schools under the new boundaries. In addition, any student assigned to a different school because of new boundaries could choose to attend that school, rather than remain in their old school.
Dr. Simpson said that the proposal provides the most space for a longer time for elementary students, addresses a long-standing inequity that left students in the northern area of Webster Groves without a school in their neighborhood after Douglass School closed decades ago and will provide students with a better educational experience by reducing the number of school transitions, leading to a greater continuity of care. In addition, sixth grade students will benefit by having more academic and extra-curricular options at Hixson.
He noted that currently the district is crowded. Enrollment has increased eight percent since 2009 and will trend up through 2024. Three schools – Avery, Clark and Edgar Road – have added modular units for additional classrooms. Nine percent of the district’s elementary children attend class in a modular unit. Avery and Clark each have one; Edgar Road has two and will add another for next year. As the phase-in of the new school boundaries continues, the district will discontinue use of the modular classrooms.
The board approved hiring the Thompson Coburn LLP law firm as bond counsel, contingent on passage of the bond issue.
Edgar Road modular bid
The board approved a $237,685 bid from Pac Van Inc. to purchase an additional modular unit for Edgar Road School.