Basics of the Bond: District passes 2020 bond initiative.

Macy Kennedy, Staff writer

Residents within the Blue Valley boundaries received a mail ballot to vote on the 2020 bond, a proposal to better the district. Deputy superintendent Mike Slagle has dealt with the bond since square one. 

“Over the past two years, I’ve worked a process with our Board of Education and our community to come up with a set of bond projects that are necessary for the future of our kids and staff here in the Blue Valley School District,” Slagle said. 

A bond is an elected issue in which a school district can ask the residents within it for money. Districts can then use this money for projects they have previously spelled out for the patrons. Deputy superintendent and incoming superintendent Tonya Merrigan said the bond is similar to a line of credit. 

“It’s a line of credit very similar to when you’re doing improvements to your home, and you have to go to a bank and say that you need money to make improvements, then you draw it down as you need it,” Merrigan said. 

Social studies teacher Mike Hardin said the bond can be explained as a program in which schools are able to ask the public for money. However, in this case, this election will be a no tax rate increase election. This means that the amount of money paid in taxes will not increase to support this bond. 

“When you think of a school bonding initiative, what a school district is usually doing is asking for either an increase or a renewal of a current property tax rate on property in order to fund new improvements or ongoing operations,” Hardin said. 

The bond has three phases: reimagine, reinvest and reinforce. With these three phases, the district will be able to keep up with the constant upkeep necessary to better the district as a whole. The first phase is reimagine. 

“Education has changed a lot in 30 years, and yet our buildings look exactly the same,” Merrigan said. “So we need to think about how do we reimagine the spaces that we have.” 

The basis of the reimagine piece is utilizing the spaces the district already has. While reinvesting might seem similar to reimagining, there is a profound difference. 

“We have 37 facilities across the district,” Slagle said “They range in age, but really, we have some of our district buildings in the northern part of the district that are approaching 30 years old, 35 years old. So those need constant update, upkeep, constant reinvestment to make sure that they are up to date for our kids.” 

The third and final phase of this bond is reinforce. 

This step involves upgrading the safety of the district’s schools and facilities. 

“The third area we had was reinforcement, which is a strong safety message,” Merrigan said “We know that, again, things have changed in 30 years and we want to ensure that our schools are safe. So you will see some safety measures that we have in there. One big one is that we would have uniform locks in all of our schools so that teachers can quickly lock a classroom from inside if we ever needed.”

 School board member and Southwest parent Jodie Dietz said she thinks the new locks will be a great addition.  

“I was looking over the list of the things that … are on the project list,” Dietz said. “I’m always looking at safety issues. One of the things I think that really needs to happen is that all of our classroom doors, the locking mechanism needs to be modified or enhanced in some cases.” 

These locks will be an addition to every school ensuring that all doors will be able to be locked from the inside without a key. This is one of the many upgrades the school will receive as a result of this bond. Hardin said one of the bonuses of this bond is the addition of a new elementary school. 

“For Southwest, I would say for sure, it’s going to be that the community is going to continue to grow and not become overcrowded,” Hardin said. “We’re building a new elementary school with this bond money. That elementary school’s not going into Northwest, the elementary school’s not feeding into North, those are full areas. It’s feeding into here. And anytime that you’re able to build a new school, you’re able to keep class sizes low.” 

Overall, this is a change for the entire district. The last step of this process was to count the votes and view the results. The bond was approved on Jan. 28. Slagle said the passed improvements will begin shortly. 

According to the district website, “Blue Valley voters have endorsed the bond election 73.8 percent to 26.2 percent. The $186,835,000 bond will reinvest in facilities and technology, reinforce school safety and reimagine learning environments and programs that will benefit students and staff for years to come.”