Cole County R-1 looks to build new classrooms through ballot measure

Two voters sit and fill out their ballots during a 2020 election at Trinity Lutheran Church in Russellville. (Liv Paggiarino/News Tribune photo)

RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. -- The Cole County R-1 School District is planning to build new classrooms and a new elementary school playground, among other things, if voters approve a Nov. 8 referendum.

Nicknamed Proposition KIDS, for Keep Improving District Schools, the proposal would ask residents to approve the district's plan to borrow $5 million with no estimated increase in the current debt service property tax levy, according to a newsletter from Superintendent Jeff Jennewein.

The current tax levy per household is $0.95 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The improvements under the proposition include:

• Construction of eight new classrooms for the junior high/high school building.

• Technology, furniture and equipment for the eight rooms.

• Addition and upgrade of security cameras.

• Masonry repairs to prevent leaks in the gym.

• Regrading of the playground.

• Installation of new playground equipment.

• Installation of new HVAC system.

• Purchase of a new speaker system for the gym.

The largest portion of the project is the high school addition, which is projected to cost around $2.6 million.

The referendum must receive a four-sevenths (57.14 percent) majority to pass. The current tax levy rate will not be lowered if the bond issue fails.

"If the referendum is not passed and enrollment trends continue with anticipated residential properties being built, the district will look to add trailers to the high school campus to address student needs," Jennewein wrote in the announcement.

Since the introduction of a football team in 2017, Jennewein said in an accompanying video, enrollment has increased 15 percent. If the trends continue, he said, Russellville schools could see 90 more students in the next five years, which would require five classrooms. Russellville could also see growth with an increase in housing due to local developments.

"Since we are currently at capacity at the high school, these additional classrooms are very important," Jennewein said.

In an attached frequently asked questions document, the district said the school board decided earlier this year to begin the school year with middle school students moving to the high school building to minimize class sizes at the elementary school and follow Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, which prevent the district from using classrooms in the basement of the elementary school.

According to the document, the board does not anticipate hiring eight new teachers to fill the classrooms that would be built but may need to hire some additional teaching staff.

The projects are expected to be completed by August 2024.

The district will hold a presentation along with PWArchitects at 6 p.m. Thursday in the elementary school cafeteria and at 7 p.m. in the high school gym.

It will also host a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 3 in the high school library, and a presentation at 9 a.m. Nov. 5 in the elementary cafeteria.