Voters in the Atlantic Community School District are likely to head to the polls on June 25th for a Special Election with regard to an $11-million dollar bond issue for Capital Improvement Projects within the district. Superintendent Dr. Michael Amstein said school administrators are circulating a petition trying to get 400 signatures which will enable the election to take place. Amstein said the expansion and improvements are needed because of both the current and Department of Education projected, increases in enrollment. He said for the past few years, the projected enrollment for kindergarten aged students has consistently increased. In 2009, the projected enrollment was 111 students. For the 2013-2014 school year, the numbers come in at 140.5, but the district is anticipating 150 based on the current preschool numbers and current figures.
Amstein says since 2010, the district has surpassed the Dept. of Education’s projected kindergarten enrollment figures by as much as 15-to 20-students. The enrollment numbers for years 2014 through 2017 continue to show a consistently high number of students entering kindergarten. The result, is that the district is literally bursting at the seams, especially at the Middle School, which has already undergone a renovation project, but still requires the use of a mobile classroom.
If approved by the voters, the bond issue will pay for improvements at each of the district’s buildings. At the Washington Elementary School, that means four new classrooms and a cafeteria area. Amstein says right now, the current building occupancy is designed for 380 students, but there are 525 students occupying the facility, not counting the two preschool classes that were moved to the old Lincoln Building. The district is not only trying to expand building space, but even-out the classroom numbers.
The bond would also help to add 11 classrooms onto the Schuler building, with the third graders being moved to that facility once the work is complete. There would also be a commons/cafeteria area for the Middle School, and the addition of seven classrooms to the High School, plus an expansion of the art room. It will also cover the replacement of aging heat pumps at the High School, and help to relieve traffic congestion by building an access road for buses behind Washington Elementary.
The bond would increase the Debt Service Levy 90-cents, from the current 88-cents, to $1.78 per thousand dollars of taxable valuation, which is not the highest it’s been in recent times. Amstein says in 1994, when there was an $8.3-million dollar issue for the new high school, the debt service levy was $2.70 per thousand. The high school is ready to come off of debt service, with the last payment expected to be made in May. Amstein says they are proposing the bond issue now, in-part because the economic climate is conducive to making additions and improvements to the district’s facilities. The other reason is because of the increased enrollment and decreasing classroom space.