Great Bend USD 428 patrons will vote on a new school bond proposal on April 28. The school board met Thursday at Lincoln Elementary School and approved a resolution with four bond questions that will appear on the ballot at a special election.
Unlike last September’s special election where people received mail-in ballots, this will be a traditional walk-in election, Superintendent Khris Thexton said. Instead of two questions there will be four, and even if all four pass the district will be asking for less money this time.
Question One would need to pass in order for any of the additional questions to pass, Thexton said.
“In order for Two, Three or Four to pass, Question One has to pass first. If Question One does not pass, none of the other questions are viable.” After that, “any combination of Two, Three and Four would work.”
Assistant Superintendent John Popp clarified that Question One does NOT add preschools at the elementary schools unless Question Two also passes, allowing the district to add a wing to Great Bend Middle School and move sixth-graders out of the elementary schools. There isn’t enough space to add preschools without moving the sixth-graders.
“The only way to do that is by passing Question Two so that the sixth grade can move,” he said. “There’s been a lot of confusion about that; I just want to clarify that Question One is really only about the safety and security.”
The bonds, if approved by voters, would have a 20-year payout. Dustin Avey from Piper Sandler (formerly Piper Jaffray) financial services was at the board meeting and noted that interest has hit an all-time low.
“From a funding perspective, obviously, the timing could be very, very good for securing interest rates and locking in long-term bond rates,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s below 2.5%. ... When we started off, the last time, at the 20 years, it was 3.8%.”
All of that adds up to less of a mill levy increase if the bonds are approved, he said.
• Project No. 1 — Construct, furnish, equip, repair, remodel and make addition to buildings and facilities used for District purposes, including: (a) safety and security improvements and storm shelters; (b) improvements, renovations and additions at the existing Eisenhower, Jefferson, Lincoln, Park and Riley Elementary Schools, Great Bend Middle School, Great Bend High School and Washington Special Services Building; and (c) make all other necessary improvements appurtenant thereto, at an estimated cost of $28,045,000.
• Project No. 2 — Construct, furnish and equip a Sixth Grade classroom wing, cafeteria and kitchen addition and storm shelter to the existing Great Bend Middle School, and make all other necessary improvements thereto, at an estimated cost of $4,550,000.
• Project No. 3 — Construct, furnish and equip additions and renovations for administrative and support areas, controlled access to the facilities, and parking/student drop-off and transportation improvements at Jefferson, Lincoln and Riley Elementary Schools, and make all other necessary improvements appurtenant thereto, at an estimated cost of $4,675,000.
• Project No. 4 — Construct, furnish and equip additions and renovations for locker rooms and student support areas at Great Bend High School, and make all other necessary improvements appurtenant thereto, at an estimated cost of $1,835,000.
Thexton said this bond election removes some of the “hot button” issues from the September election. It does not include a new maintenance and transportation building or another sixth-grade gym. It does include tearing down the 100-year-old portion of the Washington Early Education Center.
“Washington is still a hot-button issue,” he said. Some patrons have complained that this project was included in a bond election more than 30 years ago but it wasn’t done.
“We didn’t have control over what they did in the past,” Thexton said, noting none of the administrators were at the district in those days. He said if any of the bond questions pass, “you do what you say you’re going to do, and that’s what we would do.”
Contributions and personnel
In other business, the board approved the following donations:
• The Noon Lions Club contributed $50 to the GBHS Madrigal group.
• The multi-media program at GBHS received $100 from the League of Women Voters.
• USD 428 received $8,400 from Prescription Network for the quarterly formulary rebate incentives.
• USD 428 received $195 from American State Bank in incentives for the Panther Debit Card program.
• Park Elementary received a $1,000 grant contribution from the CDRR Walking School Bus program.
• Riley Elementary received $257.14 from Kroger Co. for community reward incentives.
• Farmers Bank and Trust donated decommissioned IT computer equipment to the GBHS Library “Makers Space” for student use. The estimated value of this contribution is $1333.80.
The board also approved the personnel report. Janell Foote, instructional coach a Jefferson Elementary School, will retire at the end of the school year.
Lincoln Elementary Principal Misty Straub gave a building reporting, bringing in teachers and students from grades two, four and six to talk about the science curriculum, Project Lead the Way.
“There’s a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineer and math),” Straub said. The hands-on lessons deal with a lot of interesting things that are current to today’s students, such as robots. Students work in teams and may be called on to design or build something. The lessons incorporate other subjects beyond science; for example, fourth graders are creating a video that documents their progress on the unit.
Sixth-grade teacher Jessica Geist commented on the simulation her students did in a project called “Finding Patient Zero.” “In the end, they became better problem solvers,” she said.