ISD seeks approval for $43 million in bonds

By Mike Genet

Four years after voters overwhelmingly approved a large bond issue that included a new elementary school and various projects around the district, the Independence School District will ask voters to approve $43 million in bonds for another round of districtwide improvements.

The three main priorities of the planned bond issue:

• Safety and security at building entrances.

• Playground renovations.

• Renovating performing arts spaces at the high schools and middle schools.

Truman High School was among the Independence School District facilities that got security and other upgrades when voters approved a bond issue four years ago. The district is asking voters for the money to make similar upgrades at elementary schools as well as other improvements across the district.

Like the 2017 bond issue, the measure on the April 6 ballot would not increase taxes, as the district will stay within its current bonding capacity. The district has completed all planned projects from the 2017 issue.

“We have refinanced bonds and aggressively paid down bonds over the years, so that’s the other reason we’re able to do this without a tax increase,” Superintendent  Dale Herl said, adding since 2011 the district has saved more than $11 million in debt payments. “It’s been a good market to refinance bonds.”

Independence’s high schools, middle schools and some elementaries already have newer entrances, and one of the bond projects calls for a reconfigured entrance at the remaining elementaries.

“We will have a secure vestibule with double doors at all the buildings,” Herl said.

The performing arts spaces include the theaters, band rooms and vocal music rooms at the seven middle and high schools. A few years ago the district upgraded the sound and stage equipment at Truman, Van Horn and William Chrisman high schools, and those upgrades will remain in place.

“We had done those purposefully, because we knew in a few years we would do a bond issue for the spaces,” Herl said.

Some newer playgrounds will need to be replaced, but a majority of the playgrounds at the district’s 20 elementary schools will either be partially or completely replaced in this bond project.

Among some other projects planned for the $43 bond issue:

• Permanent bleachers and a press box at Van Horn High School, allowing for more athletic contests there. 

• New softball field and tennis courts at Truman.

• Renovating the lunchroom at Three Trails Elementary, and expanding the lunchroom at Van Horn, where enrollment has doubled since the school became part of the Independence School District in 2008.

• Remodeling home economics classrooms and adding metal and woodworking shop rooms at Truman.

The locker rooms and concessions added with the new gym there in the previous bond project can also be used for football games at Van Horn, Herl noted, saving a couple million dollars. The district had looked ahead and planned some projects with this bond issue when it went to the voters four years ago.

“We already had plans for some of the items when we passed the bond issue in 2017,” Herl said. “For example, with the Van Horn gym, we were planning to be able to complete the stadium down the road.”

“We’re always looking ahead one of two bond issues.”