It is no secret that the Independence School District is growing.

Of the district’s 17 elementary schools, 11 are over-capacity, and the remaining six facilities are quickly nearing that status. Of the 300 new students into the school district this year, 200 were at the elementary level

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series examining the $80-million bond proposal going before patrons of the Independence School District Tuesday. Part 2, Thursday, will take a closer look at planned improvements to the existing schools in the district.


It is no secret that the Independence School District is growing.


Of the district’s 17 elementary schools, 11 are over-capacity, and the remaining six facilities are quickly nearing that status. Of the 300 new students into the school district this year, 200 were at the elementary level


“I think this shows that young families are returning,” said Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson. “That is exciting for the school district and the community, but it presents challenges as well.”


That is why more than one-quarter of a $85-million bond issue would go toward the construction of two new elementary schools – one in eastern Independence and one in western Independence.


Although a portion of the bonds would be interest free because of zero-percent bonds available through the federal stimulus package, homeowners in Independence would likely see a 15-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed value. According the district, for a $100,000 home, this would mean an additional $28.56 annually, and for those with a $200,000 home, it would be an additional $57.12 each year.


The decision to use the bond funds on two elementary facilities instead of the long-talked-about fourth high school was a direct result of community input. After asking community members if they wanted the district to place the bond issue on the ballot trough a series of surveys, they were asked what those funds should be used for. Overwhelmingly, the community’s decision was for two new elementary schools to be built in an effort reduce overcrowding as well as a variety of other projects.


“I am not surprised that this is what the community asked for,” Hinson said. “I think in these economic times, people are much more thoughtful when it comes to making these kind of selections. They studied the issue and the facts and made what they thought was the wisest choice.”


The elementary facility in the east would be constructed on 65 acres of land the district already owns south of Metropolitan Community College-Blue River, which was purchase in 2003. The intent has always to build both an elementary school and high school facility on the property. On the west side, Hinson said the district is still looking at several possible locations. He said 10 acres is needed for an adequate elementary site. Both would have, on average, capacity for 350 students, be constructed for an estimated $10 million and be completed by the 2011-2012 school year.


The last elementary school built was Santa Fe Trail in 1980.


“Having this amount of young students in our district is a tremendous positive,” Hinson said. “But we are over-capacity in several locations. We cannot even hire more teachers because there are no additional classrooms. If we did hire more staff, there would be no place to put them.”


Bob Harper, member of the bond issue campaign committee and parent of a student at Truman High School, said the need for the two new elementary schools is great and will not go away even if the bond issue is unsuccessful.


“Our district is growing,” he said. “Yes, there is growth in western Independence, but schools are growing to the point of bursting in eastern Independence. The elementary schools are a needed and would help alleviate a lot of space issues that we have now.”


For more information on the Independence School District bond issue, visit the district’s Web site at www.indep.k12.mo.us and choose the “2009 bond issue” tab.