Lewis County C-1: Proposition K.I.D.S. on August 8 Ballot
After months of discussion, the Lewis County C-1 Board of Education voted in May to place Proposition KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools) on the ballot as a special election on August 8. The district is seeking a 39 cent increase in the district’s operating tax levy through the Tax Year 2042 to address needed repairs and improvements to the existing facilities. This temporary increase does have a sunset in 2042, which means the 39 cent special levy would go away at that time.T he Press-News Journal talked with Lewis County C-1 Superintendent John French to discuss the election.
PNJ: If approved by the voters, what will this levy increase help accomplish? JF: The district has aging buildings that are in need of repairs, as well as outdated systems that either must be replaced or will cost the taxpayers more in the long run. For example: the HVAC systems at both HES and HHS are well-past their useful life expectancy. Not only are they less efficient, but we continue to have heating & AC systems fail throughout the year bringing on costly, but necessary repairs to an older system that needs to be replaced. By replacing the HVAC system with a new and more efficient system, the district can avoid these repair costs and assure that the classrooms are comfortable. The new HVAC system would greatly improve the air quality in the buildings as well, which will lead to a healthier and safer environment for the kids and staff of the district.
PNJ: The COVID pandemic caused air quality to become a big issue. Is this the main reason the district is looking to replace the HVAC systems? JF: It is one of the reasons, but the biggest reason is the age of the system and the continued repair costs the district is facing. Essentially, the HVAC units are 25+ years old. They are inefficient and costly to repair. Additionally, it is increasingly difficult to find parts for the old equipment. The district has written and received grants to improve air quality aside from the HVAC replacement. We were approved for a grant through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to clean and sanitize ductwork in our elementary building. We were also approved for another grant from DHSS which will place air purifiers in each classroom throughout the campus.
PNJ: It is my understanding that the plans are to use some of the funds to improve safety at the district as well. Will the money be used to build a FEMA Storm Shelter? JF: Safety concerns are one of our stakeholders’ top priorities and therefore is a priority of the district’s strategic improvement plans. I want to be clear on this - the district has been approved for a FEMA Shelter grant and we have been waiting for the final approval to move forward with design and construction. We have budgeted for this and have the money to cover the FEMA shelter without any funds from Proposition KIDS. So, once we receive the final approval from FEMA, we will be moving forward with the project to build a FEMA Shelter at the Elementary School.
PNJ: If the increase is not for the FEMA shelter, then what safety aspects will be addressed with the funds from Proposition KIDS? JF: One of the primary safety concerns that the community stakeholders have identified repeatedly is the glass wall entrance at the High School. With the violent attacks in schools over recent years, this glass wall is a safety concern. The district is looking to redo that entry and provide for a more secure and safe entrance. We will also be testing all water sources in the aging buildings for lead and making needed repairs and replacements. Additionally, we have some foundation issues from settling over the years that will likely require some type of mudjacking and tier supports to fix the issue and then the cracks in the walls and around windows will need to be replaced.
PNJ: I heard that there were plans to build a new gym at the elementary school. Will this money be used to build a new gym for the elementary? JF: The board desperately wishes to provide the elementary school with a designated gymnasium; however, Proposition KIDS will not provide a new gymnasium, which is likely to upset people. There is no dedicated room or gymnasium for Physical Education classes, so the space is sincerely needed; however, the board realized that there are too many upkeep priorities to pursue a gymnasium at this time. The thought is that we need to take care of what we have before building anything new.
PNJ: I thought the FEMA shelter was going to be built as a gymnasium, which would seem ideal. Why is the district not building the FEMA shelter as a gymnasium? JF: That was the hopes of the board and the administration. Unfortunately, the funding for the shelter is based solely on the student/staff population of the elementary building. So, while the district will only be responsible for 10% of the cost of the FEMA shelter building; and again, we already have this amount budgeted and set aside, the square footage allowed under the FEMA grant does not provide enough space to build even half of what a gymnasium would require. The district would have to overbuild and that cost would be 100 percent on the taxpayers. We had some preliminary numbers prepared and the district would have to seek a tax increase of approximately 40￠ to cover that the overbuild project. That would have been needed on top of the 39￠ being requested with Proposition KIDS to address existing facility needs. Now, again, we do have the money set aside to build the FEMA shelter, but building it as a gym is just not something we can afford to do at this time. Proposition KIDS may allow for the district to provide a connection between the shelter and the existing elementary school to provide a safer environment for our students by allowing inside travel from HES to the Shelter and back.
PNJ: Are there other things that will be addressed if Proposition KIDS passes on August 8? JF: Yes! Another major concern for the aging buildings is the brick deterioration occurring primarily at the High School. The facing of the bricks is just popping off and laying on the ground and the roof around the building. There are also some areas where tuckpointing and maybe even repair is needed. We believe the roof to be in good shape; however, we still face leaks with inclement weather. It is believed that the poor shape of the brick and mortar in several areas is what is causing the leaks. The district will be pursuing options to repair the brick and mortar or possibly even cover it with some kind of weatherproof facing similar to what has been done on parts of the building in the past. The district’s phone system is antiquated and must be replaced. The district also looks to fully replace all remaining fluorescent lighting with more efficient LED lighting. Additionally, there is an essential pump of the geothermal system at the elementary that is aging and has no emergency backup - an emergency pump is needed to keep things running when pump repairs or failure occur.
This will be a 2 part article, with the remainder of the interview published in next week’s edition of the Press News Journal. In the meantime, Mr. French encourages anyone with questions to call him at the school at 573-209-3217 and he will be happy to answer questions or discuss Proposition KIDS with anyone who would like to do so
Please support the Press-News Journal by subscribing today!