Riley County citizens will vote in a special election Tuesday on a proposed $12.3 million bond to fund additions and renovations for USD 378 schools.
The bond calls for the addition of a middle school wing to the existing high school. Currently, the middle school students are at the elementary school. Freeing up those classrooms would allow the elementary school to quit using modular classrooms for some grades. The elementary school would also get one new classroom as well as remodeled bathrooms, lockers and offices.
And along with the middle school wing, additions to the high school would include a new gym, community weight and fitness room, wrestling area, classrooms, offices, lockers, storm shelter, cafeteria and a 400-seat auditorium with lobby.
Both schools would see safety enhancements, energy-efficiency upgrades and more parking. The bond also provides for new childcare and Head Start facilities.
The proposal, which supporters say would eliminate overcrowding, increase security and enhance sports facilities, has opposition from some of the district’s residents.
A drive through Riley or Keats shows multiple signs voicing opposition to the bond. The group responsible, whose members refused to comment or be named individually, brought a packet voicing the slogans “Vote NO for a R.E.D.O” (responsible education design option) and “Vote NO for N.O.W.” (needs over wants) to the Mercury to be reviewed.
The group says too much of the project’s money is being dedicated to extra-curricular activities at the schools.
It also takes issue with middle and high school students sharing common walking areas, a gymnasium and a music room. And it criticizes the addition of FEMA shelters at the high school instead of (or in addition to) at the grade school.
The papers claims that the group surveyed voters and found that more were against the bond than for it, though they show no indication of the quantity or demographics of individuals surveyed.
Riley County Commissioner Bob Boyd said he supports the bond.
“The grade school should be a palace, a fine institution for education,” Boyd said. “It is already because of the people that work there, but the facilities are lacking. If the bond passes, we’re going to gain space – not update facilities – for the school district’s growth.”
Boyd said that even if the bond passes, there will be many options even after the vote for ways to spend the $12.3 million.
He said storm shelters are a hot topic right now simply because of the recent destruction from tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. He said he doesn’t foresee storms being as much of an issue in the winter time.
“There are no concrete plans for what we’re going to get for that amount of money,” Boyd said. “I trust the board of education. They’re not getting paid, they’re volunteers, and they’re doing their best.”
Advance voting began Monday at the Riley County Clerk’s Office, 110 Courthouse Plaza, and will still be available this Monday from 8 a.m. to noon.
Election day is Tuesday at the clerk’s office. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for those who live within the USD 378 area.