NMSD eyeing $42.2 million bond
The North Marion School District is asking voters on Nov. 7 to support a bond to improve every school in the district. After a comprehensive assessment of all school buildings and an intentional evaluation process, the District is presenting a $42.2 million long-term plan of re-investment and expansion.
Facilities planning first started in September 2015 when the district invited the public to be a part of a citizen-based Long Range Facility Planning Committee.
Nearly 40 community members, parents, industry partners and district staff gathered together over an eight-month period to review information on the existing buildings, examine enrollment projections, discuss changes in education and future employer needs, and gather input from the community.
From an early list of over $80 million in possible improvements, the committee prioritized projects and recommended on the highest, most critical issues. The committee talked at great length about how the schools are community assets, a source of pride, providing a foundational identity to all local residents.
They realized that after many years of service, the school campus needs more than the district's annual operating budget can provide and recommended the facilities plan to the school board. With minor modifications, the board approved the plan earlier this year, setting in motion the bond election process.
The plan focuses on the district's highest priorities: increased educational opportunities, improved safety and security, expanded outdoor play areas and a reinvestment in core building infrastructure.
After studying how education has changed over the last 60 years, how job requirements have changed in the global economy and how children might best be prepared to enter the job market, the committee realized that the high school program needed to change.
However, since the cost of renovating existing classrooms is estimated to be more than 70 percent of the cost of new space, it was more financially prudent to replace the academic spaces dating to 1949.
A new two-story structure replaces the existing classroom wings. With 27 classrooms and labs, the addition supports 21st century teaching and learning with flexible spaces to adapt to changing technologies.
It provides teaching and lab space for Science, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM), humanities and applied learning programs.
The addition also includes a media center with integrated technology and administrative and support offices. The renovated vocational technical building will house the manufacturing, agricultural and culinary and hospitality programs, enabling greater program diversity, community partnerships and student entrepreneurial opportunities.
Improved Safety and Security:
All buildings will have a secure access control and improved line-of-sight to doors and corridors with cameras and intrusion alarms.
Classrooms will have new locks that secure from inside the room. Parking lots will be expanded to allow for more car queuing off the road and out of traffic circulation. Moving the fire lane will eliminate parking at the back of the site.
Expanded Outdoor Play Areas:
New playground equipment will replace aged structures. New covered play shelters are planned outside of the Primary and Intermediate Schools, adjacent to the playfields.
Reinvestment in Building Infrastructure:
While all of the buildings have been continuously maintained, several core systems have reached the end of their lives and need to be replaced.
More efficient and cost-effective systems can increase student comfort while reducing operational costs. New roofs, siding, and mechanical systems and controls will help all schools run more efficiently.
Aged kitchen equipment will be replaced at the middle school. Additional restrooms will be added to the primary, intermediate and middle schools, and restrooms and locker rooms at the middle and high schools will be renovated.
As a component of the improved vehicle flow, all parking lots will be expanded and repaved.
The current bond tax rate for NMSD residents is $1.38 per thousand dollars of assessed home value (below the original 1998 combined rate of $2.44).
It is estimated that this $42.2 million bond will increase the current rate by 48 cents to $1.86 per thousand — still lower than the district's combined bond rate in 1998. That translates to a tax increase of approximately $8 per month for the owner of a $200,000 (assessed value) home.
In addition to the proposed bond, the district received a seismic grant of $2.9 million to address the needs at the high school's primary gymnasium and the middle school gym, and a state capital matching grant of $4 million.
These funds will allow the district to maximize improvements to facilities while minimizing the impact to taxpayers. The state capital matching grant, however, will only be granted to the district if the bond is passed.