Independence Schools have continued to grow enough for several years that district leaders want to construct a new elementary school.
To fund that proposed building, as well as additions to the three high schools, the district is asking voters to approve a $38 million bond issue April 4. It would be a no-tax-increase bond, as the district would be staying within its bonding capacity. The Board of Education voted Tuesday to place the bond issue on the ballot.
If the bond issue passes, the new elementary school would be at the corner of 31st Street and Hardy Avenue in southeast Independence – an 8-acre plat that currently is Cassell Park but is owned by the district, in an area that feeds into Van Horn High School. That would be planned to open in the summer of 2019.
Truman, William Chrisman and Van Horn high schools all would get some additional classrooms that would be chiefly for the career academies. Van Horn would also get a second gymnasium, Chrisman a new weight room with the current one converted for wrestling and Truman a new main entrance and expanded lunchroom.
Superintendent Dale Herl said the addition and expansions will eliminate overcrowding to the point where mobile trailers – there are seven of them at district elementaries this year – won’t be needed and future growth could be absorbed.
Herl said the district has seen student population grow all over, but the area that would be served by a new school – between Korte Elementary to the north and Three Trails to the east – as seen a higher rate.
After falling the previous several years, the district’s student population was nearly 14,000 at the end of the 2009 school year – the first with former Kansas City schools – and generally has risen each year since to more than 15,000 students at the end of 2016, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For several years, the incoming kindergarten class has far outpaced the graduating high school class.
“I don’t know if anybody on this board has been here when we didn’t have any trailers,” Herl said. “I’m hoping this will take care of the Independence School District for the next 10 years.”
Cassell Park, 10401 E. 31st St., is mostly three basic ball fields, with fences behind them, and little else. The land had been owned by the Kansas City School District and maintained by Independence Parks and Recreation until the transfer of the 2008, when ISD took over ownership. The parks department would only have to remove a small amount of equipment, City Manager Zach Walker said.
“We haven’t had much of a presence there for awhile,” Walker said.
Independence’s last new elementary schools were Mallinson in 2013 and Little Blue in 2012, constructed after voters approved an $85 million bond issue in 2009. Before that, the last new elementary had been Santa Fe Trail in 1980.