Independence School District's requested upgrades approved

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

Similar to four years ago, voters in the Independence School District overwhelmingly approved the district’s requested bond issue Tuesday.

Nearly 85 percent of voters said yes to issuing $43 million in bonds for upgrades to safety and security measures at many school entrances, the fine arts and auditorium facilities at the high schools, and playground equipment.

The final unofficial tally: 5,208 yes votes – 84.75 percent – to 937 no. 

In 2017, voters approved $48 million in bonds, which led to a new elementary school and significant projects at the three high schools. Voters approved that issue with 84.96 percent yes votes.

“I’m very blessed that we have a community that’s so supportive of the school district,” Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl said. “Even through COVID and a very challenging year, the community has remained behind the school district.”

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.

The bond issue does not increase the district’s property tax levy. Because of the Hancock Amendment, which limits how much revenue taxing districts can receive due to property tax increases, ISD’s levy has actually dropped 27 cents since the 2017 bond issue was approved. Fulfilling all the promised projects from that vote helped lead another decisive vote this time, the superintendent says.

“One thing the Board of Education has always been adamant about, what projects we say we’re going to do, we do exactly that,” Herl said. “Sometimes we do more, but we keep our promises.”

The first priority, Herl said, is the playgrounds. Once the election results are certified and the board approves contracts, that work can start soon.

“We do have contacts that are ready to go,” Herl said.

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 – a secure vestibule with double doors.

The performing arts spaces to be renovated 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.

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.