Proposition E No-Tax-Rate-Increase Bond Issue on Ballot April 2
On April 2, voters in the Webster Groves School District will be asked to approve Proposition E, a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue. The funds would be used to improve accessibility, safety and other space needs in all of the district’s buildings; relieve overcrowding in the elementary schools and once again establish a neighborhood school in a northern area of the district.
Passage of the $22 million 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 additional accessibility and safety enhancements for all schools, fund an addition at Hixson Middle School, allowing sixth grade students to be moved there, and convert Steger Sixth Grade Center and Givens School into an elementary school.
The School Board’s decision to put the bond issue on the ballot came after several months of community discussions, including meetings, open houses, 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.”
Chief Financial Officer Bruce Ellerman said that the district’s ability to raise bond issue funds while maintaining the current tax rate stems directly from “strong fiscal management and the implementation of numerous efficiency initiatives by the Board of Education and district administration during the past three years.”
If approved, the bond issue would commit $6 million for important safety and accessibility enhancements that include secure doors and controlled-entry vestibules for all buildings, asbestos abatement, districtwide communications system, secure interior and classroom doors, secure exterior doors, elevators and chairlifts.
In addition, $16 million from the bond issue would be used to construct additional space at Hixson Middle School and convert Steger Sixth Grade Center/Givens School into an elementary school. Sixth grade students would move to Hixson and Steger Sixth Grade Center/Givens School would become 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 this 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. Residential elementary 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 will attend class in a modular unit next school year. 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.
You can find additional information, documents and studies related to Proposition E on the district’s website, webster.k12.mo.us Click on “About Us” at the top of the page and select Proposition E from the scroll-down menu.
Proposition E would provide accessibility improvements in district schools, such as elevators and chairlifts for those who can’t use stairs.
Proposition E would alleviate crowding in elementary schools and allow the district eventually to discontinue using modular units, such as this one at Avery School, for classrooms.
Safety enhancements would include secure, controlled-entry vestibules for all schools, where visitors would enter.