Westfield Washington School District proposes $90 million construction referendum for May ballot

By Anna Skinner

After conducting eight public focus groups, a demographic study, a facility study and a debt structure study, the Westfield Washington School District has proposed a $90 million bond construction referendum be placed on the May ballot.

Grate

The $90 million bond would be paid over 20 years, with a 30-cent per $100 assessed value tax rate. WWS Superintendent Dr. Sherry Grate said that tax increment financing districts also would be included.

Through the focus groups, four different grade configuration options were proposed. The construction referendum, if placed on the ballot and then approved by voters in May, would allow for renovations and expansion to the intermediate, middle and high schools without changing the grade configurations.

“This in its entirety allows us to be able to address rapid growth and allows us to be able to address expanding (schools) and enhancing educational opportunities for our student,” Grate said. “For example, in many focus groups we had surveys completed, and common things of progress or opportunities that our community would be supportive in seeing implemented or expanding upon were music and performing arts progress, expanding upon STEM opportunities, addressing technology needs throughout the district, and also an opportunity for being able to expand exposure to different career opportunities for students. Most obviously we will maintain our academic excellence, but this focuses on the social and emotional needs of students.”

With the demographic and facility studies, the district looked at facility capacity and enrollment trends. Grate said a new elementary school is not needed but the intermediate, middle and high schools are nearly at capacity.

“While expansions and renovations are necessary at the intermediate, middle and high schools, additional dollars will allow us to be able to touch every school in some way with updates and maintenance,” Grate said.

The referendum proposal would be in addition to the operating referendum which passed with more than 80 percent of the vote in November 2016. The operating referendum was 20 cents per $100 of assessed value to be paid over seven years. Grate said that referendum was a 13 percent reduction from the original operating referendum of 23 cents per $100 of assessed value. The operating referendum cannot be used for construction, expansion or renovations as it was strictly decided for staffing and programs.

Grate said the next steps for getting the referendum placed on the May ballot include collecting 500 signatures, county election board approval and more.

“We are looking forward as we go through this process, and we are very excited about the people in the community stepping forward to say they will help with this campaign,” Grate said. “I’m really pleased with the support we have had from the community and look forward to additional conversation as we look at designing the best use of our space.”

Facility capacity and current enrollment

School

  Capacity   Enrollment as of Sept. 16, 2016
Westfield High School   2,250 2,151
Westfield Middle School   1,250 1,214
Westfield Intermediate School 1,250 1,130
Carey Ridge Elementary 650 561
Maple Glen Elementary 650 550
Monon Trail Elementary 650 424
Oak Trace Elementary 650 607
Shamrock Springs Elementary 650 431
Washington Woods Elementary 650 442