Jeff West bond committee: Keeping an attractive ‘front porch’
by Clarke Davis
Keeping ahead of the curve and making Jefferson West the best school district it can be are reasons Tonya Holthaus has spent the past year serving on a bond committee with her neighbors.
The USD 340 school board has taken the committee’s recommendations and scheduled a bond election for April 3. The committee’s job now is to inform the patrons about the proposal and encourage a positive vote.
“An uninformed vote is a no vote,” she said. “I just want to make sure people know the facts, then a patron can make up their own mind.”
There were 40 to 50 people at that first meeting invited by the school board to explore the district’s needs a year ago.
Being “fairly vocal,” in her words, she wound up spending the past year as chairwoman of the committee. Patrons broke into subgroups and explored all aspects of the educational program.
“The ultimate goal was to incorporate the entire student body . . . to make sure the bond issue would benefit students at all levels,” she said. “I believe we have done that.”
In an interview last week, she spelled out the basics:
—The $3.3 million bond issue is for a period of eight years and the 8-mill levy at the outset is at least 1 mill less than taxpayers are paying now with the retirement of the high school bonds.
—The money will be spent to make repairs and improvements to all district buildings; introduce the latest technology and expand its use; and improve the track and football facilities that includes a new building for lockers, restrooms, and concessions.
“The time is right,” Holthaus said, noting that the high school bonds will be paid off and the state will pay for 40 percent of the bonds.
“The tax levy would be over 14 mills instead of 8 without the state’s involvement,” she said.
Interest rates remain low and the district expects competitive bidding to keep construction prices low.
Holthaus sees the school as the centerpiece of the Jefferson West community and the one thing that will help it prosper. Quoting another committee member, she wants the school to keep an attractive “front porch.”
“That’s important for two reasons,” she said. “We attract out-of-district students because of the quality of education here and we want that to continue. Secondly, with consolidation being thrown around, we want it to happen here.”
Holthaus can speak from experience. There was a day back in 2000 when she and her husband, Benji, were looking for a place to live and it was all about the school. Finding a satisfactory school for their child was their first priority. Their son, Chase, would be going into kindergarten.
Chase is a sophomore now and there have been some additions. Delaney is a seventh grader, Zoe is in the fifth grade, and 4-year-old Tucker will soon be going to kindergarten.
They are not disappointed with their choice of schools. She touts the teaching staff and brags about the well-rounded program of fine arts, music and theater.
Tonya and Benji are Corning natives who graduated from the 1A school at Centralia. She is a Kansas State University graduate with a degree in advertising and marketing. She is an account manager for a pharmaceutical company. Benji is in charge of signal maintainance for the Union Pacific Railroad.
Tonya travels for her company and she is armed with an iPad and a laptop. She believes the district will be doing a disservice to its students if they are not exposed to the latest in technology, which is quickly changing the classroom and essential in the marketplace.
Her pet peeve is the lack of decent lockerrooms and public restrooms at the football stadium.
“And we need to make that stadium handicapped accessible,” she said. “I don’t know how a person in a wheelchair could attend a game.”
Holthaus hopes when people study the list of improvements addresssed in the bond issue they will agree that the committee came up with a list of needs — not wants — and they understand the district has barely been able to maintain things given the amount of cuts in state aid in recent years.
“It’s a great school, but there’s a lot we need to do,” she said.
Jefferson West USD 340
Estimated costs of projects
Electrical improvements, elementary and middle schools and shop $330,000
Facilities lighting upgrades, gyms and commons areas $25,000
Classrooms, commons, hall, restroom upgrades $130,000
Air condition middle school commons $65,000
Replace high school roof $265,000
Computing devices to address technology initiative at all three buildings. Implementing laptops and iPads and updating of labs in each building $730,000
Year 3 upgrade: $300,000
Interactive whiteboards in 60 classrooms $78,000
Document cameras for 60 classrooms $15,000
Computing devices for staff: iPad and laptop replaced four to five years $85,000
Software and app. upgrades $200,000
Server upgrades and virtual computing stations $180,000
Facilities replacement and upgrades
Building to replace stadium locker room, restrooms and concessions area $520,000
Track resurfacing $135,000
Stadium field lights $180,000
Handicap accessibility parking to seating and concessions $120,000
Visitor side bleachers $40,000
Total $3.398 million
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