Work to begin soon after Blue Springs voters easily approve school additions, improvements

By Mike Genet
The Examiner
An artist's rendering of the planned freshman wing at Blue Springs High School.

After Blue Springs School District voters overwhelmingly approved a large bond issue as well as a levy transfer Tuesday, they will start to see signs of work by the end of the month, and construction will take place by the end of 2021. 

Construction additions at James Lewis, William Bryant, Chapel Lakes and Franklin Smith elementary schools will be the first projects from the $107 million bond issue to get going, said Charlie Belt, assistant superintendent for operations. 

“In the next two to three weeks, we’ll have some construction fencing at the elementary sites,” Belt said. “The bid packages are going out this month, and there should be some site work by end of September.” 

James Lewis Elementary will get six classrooms and additional office space, William Bryant gets six new classrooms and Chapel Lakes Elementary gets four new classrooms built to withstand an EF5 tornado. Franklin Smith Elementary gets a multipurpose room with EF5 capability, which will mean each elementary building in the district has multipurpose space.  

A large part of the bond issue is the new freshman wing at Blue Springs High School, which will allow the rest of the district freshmen to move out of the Freshman Center. It will be constructed in the corner currently occupied by the current Civic Center, the original auditorium built in the 1960s. Belt said the district is continuing the design plans for the freshman wing, and they expect demolition for new construction to start there in last couple months of 2021. All plans point to that wing opening for freshmen for the 2023-24 school year. 

The district will then fully convert the Freshman Center into a career educational center. Three years ago, a $99 million bond issue allowed the district to construct a freshman wing at Blue Springs South High School, allowing about half the district freshman to move. 

The bond issue received 82 percent approval – 3,530 yes votes to 765 no votes and safely above even the two-thirds majority required to pass. It will not raise property taxes because it’s within the district’s bonding capacity. 

The levy transfer moves 6 cents to operations and, after the district reduces its debt service by a same amount, will leave the property tax levy unchanged at $5.7286 per $100 of assessed valuation. It required a simple majority and passed with 72 percent approval – 3,103 yes votes against 1,190 no votes. With the additional revenue for operations, the district plans to hire six mental-health professionals for the middle schools and high schools and have a registered nurse for each school.  

Belt, who was principal at Blue Springs South while the freshman wing there was built and then filled, said that move lessens the transition for students through the middle school into high school years. 

“It’s a great move for the kids and a great move for our teachers and staff,” Belt said. “We’re all as high school teachers, for the most part, departmentalized, and that move makes it really much more efficient as far as departments and our activities program.” 

Several other projects are also scheduled with the $107 million bond issue: 

• Upgrades to the indoor pool at Centennial Pool-Plex, which will mean a new indoor pool also for the 2023-24 school year. The outdoor pool will go away, and Belt said both high schools will use the pool next to South for the 2022-23 school year.  

• Franklin Smith, Lucy Franklin, Voy Spears Jr., William Bryant, and William Yates elementary schools will all receive kitchen upgrades.  

• Roof and HVAC maintenance at for many district buildings.  

• An additional tennis court at Baumgardner Park  

• All-weather surfaces for the middle school tracks.  

• Office expansion and driveway updates for John Nowlin Elementary.  

• Additional parking and restrooms at James Walker Elementary.  

According to the Jackson County Election Board’s unofficial results, the school district measure had just an 8.1% voter turnout. 

“We’re extremely grateful for the support for the schools, from a community that traditionally supports the district, and we definitely don’t take that for granted,” Superintendent Bob Jerome said about the election results. “We try to communicate clearly with the public about our plans.”