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2017 Bond Information Frequently Asked Questions Vision Planning

Frequently Asked Questions

 

If the bond passes, will a daycare be added at the high school?

  • Newton High School has discussed adding a daycare for several years. Many ideas have been considered as to the space and layout on campus and many conversations have taken place, but no specific plans have been drawn up. This work has been done to meet a need of our student population and to educate students on skills they will need throughout their life. Students who would be part of the daycare would enroll in the Early Childhood pathway where explicit instruction is done to teach parenting skills, hands-on experience is provided and students are supported to finish their high school diploma. In addition to students benefiting from the daycare, there is a possibility that staff as well as the community could use the daycare for their childcare needs. The idea of the daycare has been reported on by our local newspapers as well as by Wichita news channels. As with all new endeavors, this would need the approval of the Board of Education.

Will the board need to vote to reconfigure the schools after the bond election to PreK, K-5, 6-8, and 9-12?

  • Yes, if the bond passes, the Board of Education will need to approve the reconfiguration of schools to align with the recommendation of the Community Vision Team that was previously approved by the Board. The Board of Education has already approved the Community Vision Team’s plan which details this transition to a new grade configuration. There is a step that will need to be taken by the Board of Education to align board policy (Policy AC) with the grade configuration.

Could the Board of Education decide not to change the configuration after the election?

  • The bond election is not a vote to change the configuration of the buildings. This is a board policy issue and only the Board of Education has the authority to make a change in building configurations. All information that has been presented to the public for the bond election communicates that the district will change the configuration to align with the recommendation from the Community Vision Team and the bond language that was approved by State Board of Education and published in the newspapers for the bond proposal. The plan recommended by the Community Vision Team was the result of significant collaboration between the school district and the community throughout the last two years. The plan that is presented to the community represents a solution that meets the guiding principles outlined in the comprehensive plan: Education is USD 373 shall be student centered, promote creativity and collaboration, be technology rich, promote good stewardship, create balanced curriculum, ensure safety and security, and be flexible. The plan also addresses the findings of the comprehensive plan. The Board of Education and district administration will review these decisions over the next two years of design and construction to make the use of community dollars most effective for our students.

     

Will teachers/staff as well as community members have a say in the design of the proposed projects?

  • Absolutely! Our consultants are committed to work with our staff to ensure the academic, safety, and technology needs meet the expectations of our community. There will also be opportunity for Newton residents, students and district employees to be a part of the process as it occurs to provide transparency and instill confidence in project outcomes.

If the bond doesn’t pass, will we continue with current configuration of K-4, 5/6 and 7/8 or is the K-5 and 6-8 model inevitable?

  • Currently, K-4th grade students attend elementary schools. If the bond does not pass, the Administration will recommend to the BOE a phased transition from the current configuration to K-5 at the elementary level and 6-8 at Santa Fe and Chisholm. National studies continue to support the idea that fewer transitions produce positive outcomes for students socially and academically.
    This recommendation would reduce the total transitions for many students from five to four. Such a recommendation would also relieve the current capacity issues at both schools. Projections indicate that enrollment will not decline in these schools and, in fact, elementary enrollment is projected to increase over the next five years. This would negatively impact Santa Fe and Chisholm if the configuration remains the same. It is possible that we would be moving 5th grade back to the elementary schools in order to equalize the enrollment in each elementary school and relieve the capacity issues at grades 6-8.

Can someone tell us why we chose to build in Walton versus a new building somewhere else in the district?

  • We are very excited for the future of Walton Rural Life Center through the renovation and new additions that this bond will provide. This unique program can now have a facility designed specifcally to incorporate hands-on learning techniques. Surveys were taken with the district staff: 35% in favor of Walton renovation, 33% in favor of building new elsewhere, and 32% undecided. A phone poll of the community indicated between 65-70% of registered voters were in favor of remodeling Walton over building new elsewhere. With this information, the community group weighed the of cost savings between the two options of new verses renovation and chose the Walton renovation.

What happens if the bond does not pass?

  • The most important issue to be aware of is connected to a bill that was passed by the state legislature in July 2017. The state has placed a yearly cap on available dollars for school bond elections in the state. That cap is currently $332.5 million. Once the state accepts applications for that amount of bond dollars they put remaining applications on a waiting list. Newton is included in this year’s cap amount, but if the bond does not pass they will fall to the bottom of the waiting list. Based on expected submissions, all of the 2018-19 cap dollars will be spoken for prior to next spring/summer. That does not include larger districts that could possibly request between $300-$400 million. Simply stated, if the bond fails, it might potentially be 2-3 years before USD 373 could run another bond. That means it would be 5-6 years before any renovations or new buildings would be completed. By that point, we will be over capacity at Chisholm and Santa Fe. The needs at the High School will go untouched. Safety and security upgrades, including much needed storm shelter improvements, would remain a serious issue. Financially,  construction costs are increasing at a rate of 3-5% annually while interest rates are predicted to rise. Unfortunately, bond election needs will not go away, they will just be postponed and likely cost more to do the same work down the road.

Does it cost a lot more to bus students to Walton than it would to provide transportation to a new school south of Newton?

  • No. At an estimated cost of $39,600 for transportation costs for Walton, there would not be a significant difference in the amounts for transportation to either school. 

     

    It is important to also understand that there are a number of factors that contribute to the total cost of district transportation. USD 373 receives reimbursement for students that are 2.5 miles from the attendance center. 

     

    The district also busses students in town for a variety of reasons, such as if the district is "district directing" students to a different school than their home attendance center, the student needs to attend a specialized program or if there is a safety reason (i.e., must cross the railroad tracks or a major roadway).

Is the bond needed due to deferred maintenance on our buildings?

  • No, the district commits funds though general fund and capital outlay each year to maintain buildings including but certainly not limited to replacing carpet, making repairs, and resurfacing parking lots. As mechanical systems fail and are no longer repairable, those repairs or replacements become a priority. The district has been committed to caring for the buildings entrusted to its employees.

So, what are the funds going to pay for?

  • The bond funds will support a variety of projects and will address multiple needs determined through the comprehensive planning process that the Board of Education committed to in 2015. The projects to outlined in the bond include:
    • At Newton High School:
    • Complete renovation of the academic space originally occupied in 1973 and remodeled to provide educational spaces that address today’s instructional practices;
    • Replacement of mechanical systems (1973) to provide better air quality, climate control, and efficiency;
    • Addition of six state-of-the-art science classrooms;
    • Renovation of district kitchen and commons area;
    • Renovation of pool area including mechanical systems;
    • Renovation of Ravenscroft Gym and locker rooms;
    • Renovation of the Performing Arts Center;
    • Provisions for adaptable and collaborative furniture; and
    • Addition of Storm Shelter as Auxiliary Gym.
    • At Walton Rural Life Center:
    • Complete renovation of the original building occupied in 1963;
    • Addition of classroom space to provide for educational and instructional needs and provide equity between buildings in the district;
    • Addition of Storm Shelter;
    • Provide adaptable and collaborative furniture;
    • Removal of Modular Classrooms; and
    • Addition of measures to upgrade safety, security, and technology.
    • At Santa Fe:
    • Provide upgrades to safety, security, and technology; and
    • Upgrades to Lindley Hall Locker Rooms.
    • At Chisholm Middle School:
    • Provide upgrades to safety, security, and technology; and
    • Provide additional Storm Shelter.
    • At Northridge, Slate Creek, South Breeze, and Sunset:
    • Provide upgrades to safety, security, and technology;
    • Provide adaptable and collaborative furniture; and
    • Specifically address tornado rated doors on each of the elementary gyms. 
    • At Cooper Early Childhood Center:
    • Provide upgrades to safety, security, and technology; and
    • Addition of Storm Shelter.

When will the current bonds pay off?

  • Current bonds are scheduled to pay off in 2026.

When this bond passes what will happen to existing bonds and the bonds that support the proposed projects?

  • When this bond proposal passes the existing indebtedness will be paid off first using a wraparound bond. The bond passed in 2017 will pay off in 2037.

We just had a bond in 2007. Why do we need a bond now?

  • Yes, the bond projects that were approved in 2007 made specific improvements to Newton High School, Santa Fe, and Chisholm, as well as providing some additional space at Walton Rural Life Center. Through the community process that happened at that time, the priority for Newton High School was on expanding Career and Technical Education space for agriculture, building trades, automotive, machining, and welding. In addition, priorities identified included for moving the administrative center to the front of the high school (considered best practice for security) and providing a controlled entrance as well as moving the Media Center to create a modern space that could be accessed by the public were considered to be most important.

    Now, the community, through community meetings and the work of the CVT, has determined that there is significant need to renovate the original footprint of the high school. The needs identified include upgrading the mechanical systems, creating state-of-the-art science classrooms, and designing collaborative learning spaces as well as other projects. In addition, members of the high school staff have discussed upgrading areas of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) spaces to better reflect the world of work and careers that students may experience. These include a child care center for the Child Development Pathway and an industrial kitchen for the Culinary Arts Pathway. Interested patrons should contact Melinda Rangel (melinda.rangel@usd373.org or 284-6280) for additional information. 


    In 2007, the bond decision included adding space to Santa Fe and Chisholm Middle Schools and reconfiguring the grade spans in the buildings from 6, 7, and 8 in both schools to grades 5 and 6 located at Santa Fe and 7 and 8 located at Chisholm. With approximately 500 students enrolled at both schools, the buildings are considered to be at capacity. There is extremely limited space for any additional classrooms. The Community and Educator Facility Team determined through many weeks of discussion that the best solution for instructional and capacity issues was to change the configuration to 6, 7, and 8 and return to two middle schools. This will allow for more room for growth, increase the grade span in the buildings, and reduce the number of transitions that students make from pre-school to high school.

    At the time of the last bond, Walton Rural Life Center was just beginning. The school was a single-section (one class per grade), rural school with declining enrollment. The school received limited funds from either the 1997 or 2007 bond. The funds that were invested in the school provided some additional classroom space and storm shelter. In 2017, as a school of choice, the enrollment has grown to allow for two sections of each grade making Walton Rural Life Center approximately the same size as three of the other four elementary schools in USD 373. In order to accommodate the growth in enrollment, the district with support from the Walton Rural Life Center Foundation purchased used modular classrooms. It was noted at the time of the purchase that it was a temporary solution that would need to be addressed within the next five years. In spite of the addition of modular classrooms, the school still does not have the same amount of space for physical education, media center, or support services such as social worker, nurse, and special education. The Community and Educator Facility Team recommended that the school be expanded to K-5, renovated, and additional space added to create an equitable learning environment for the students that attend there.

    Through analysis of storm shelters, mechanical systems, technology infrastructures, and safety and security using both internal resources and external experts, it was determined that the district needed to make improvements to safety and security measures, replace end-of-life mechanical systems, upgrade all technology infrastructures to allow for wireless environment and addition of more devices, and retrofit the elementary gym doors to current specifications for tornados.

Why change the configuration to K-5 and 6-8?

  • It was determined by the Community and Educator Facility Team that a change in the configuration best addressed the needs of the students and the district. The team reviewed information regarding the impact of multiple transitions on student success, input from staff members, capacity of both buildings, the demographic report, and costs associated with addressing the capacity issues in both buildings.

If the bond is approved when would  the elementary schools change to K-5 and what would that mean for Santa Fe and Chisholm?

  • Under the proposal, Santa Fe and Chisholm will move to a traditional middle school configuration that would include grades 6, 7, and 8. Fifth grade students would remain in the elementary schools. At this time, there is not a timeline planned for this transition. The planning process will begin in earnest once the bond is passed. It is projected to take approximately 2 1/2 years from the passage of the bond to the completion of the Walton renovation. There is a need to revisit the current boundaries to equalize enrollments in each of the elementary schools. It would be possible for the transition to begin in 2019-20. So, this year's third graders may remain in the elementary schools and transition to middle school in 2020-21. However, the transition might not occur until 2020-21. The planning process will include input from staff and parents to make the transitions for students positive. 

    Under the current proposal, Santa Fe and Chisholm will move to a traditional middle school configuration that would include grades 6, 7, and 8. Fifth grade students would remain in the elementary schools. At this time, there is not a timeline planned for this transition. The planning process will begin in earnest once the bond is passed. It is projected to take approximately 2 1/2 years from the passage of the bond to the completion of the Walton renovation. There is a need to revisit the current boundaries to equalize enrollments in each of the elementary schools. It would be possible for the transition to begin in 2019-20. So, this year's third graders may remain in the elementary schools and transition to middle school in 2020-21. However, the transition might not occur until 2021-22. The planning process will include input from staff and parents to make the transitions for students positive.

 

Why is the district considering building another gym as a storm shelter rather than a new performing arts center or using the science wing as the storm shelter?

  • The Community and Educator Facility Team (CVT) considered several different possibilities. One factor is the location of the storm shelter in relation to the rest of the building so that students and staff would have 3-5 minutes to travel to the storm shelter. This is the time that is recommended by emergency management. A performing arts center or science wing, given the current building and land usage, would be located on the east side of the high school. This would not allow for sufficient time for all students to move from the farthest locations on campus to the storm shelter.

    The team also considered input from members of the team that indicated the location of Willis Gym, current enrollments in physical education classes, and lost class time due to the use of the gym for other purposes impacted the availability of space for students. The team considered how Willis Gym might be utilized differently for a variety of purposes for academics and athletics.

    Other factors the team considered were the storm shelter structure and the costs. The team discussed whether it was possible to create a storm shelter space within the existing building. It was determined that this was not possible. Therefore, building new space for a storm shelter was considered. They reviewed costs associated with a new performing arts center with an estimated cost of $18 million, new science wing with an estimated cost of $5 million, and an auxiliary gym with an estimated cost of $3.7 million. After a great deal of discussion of the pros and cons of these options, the Community and Educator Facility Team decided to recommend the auxiliary gym as the storm shelter.