In the realm of school bond issues, Goddard’s isn’t particularly sexy.
The plan doesn’t include any new school buildings, unlike Goddard’s last bond a decade ago, which financed Eisenhower High School.
This bond, which Goddard voters will decide Tuesday, focuses in large part on safety, security and equity – things like classroom additions that double as storm shelters and intruder hardware for classroom doors.
The bond would replace roofs and pave parking lots. It would upgrade heating and air-conditioning systems. It would retrofit light fixtures with higher-efficiency LED bulbs. It would install new intercoms and wireless clocks.
The bond would finance the kinds of long-term maintenance projects and renovations the district couldn’t afford otherwise, supporters say.
“It’s not over the top,” said Jess Herbig, principal of Challenger Intermediate School. “It’s just what is needed.”
The proposed $52 million bond issue would finance upgrades to all 12 schools in Goddard. The proposal calls for storm shelters to be added to nine schools in the form of classroom wings, libraries, cafeteria additions or multipurpose rooms.
It would increase the district’s mill levy by 1.9 mills – about $22 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Ashley Stevens, a mother of three Goddard students, said she supports the bond primarily because it would keep kids and teachers safer during severe weather.
Her youngest two children attend Oak Street Elementary in Goddard, which does not have a tornado shelter. During severe weather, most of the school’s 285 children crouch down along one hallway and cover their heads with their hands. Others huddle in restrooms or a teacher supply room.
“When there’s been a storm, I’ve tried to decide, ‘Do I get in the car and go get them?’ Because they’re safer at home than they are here,” Stevens said during a recent visit to the school.
“You’d like to think that where they spend a majority of their days and their months (is where) they would be safest, but they’re not.”
During a recent morning, Oak Street students practiced their tornado procedure, crouching in a hallway fitted with steel doors at one end to protect from flying glass. The problem, said principal Ashley Miller, is the non-fortified ceiling in this part of the building could blow off in tornado-force winds.
“It’s just not sufficient, what we have right now. It’s pretty scary,” Miller said.
“One time one of the kids asked, ‘Am I going to die?’ Kids want reassurance. And as adults, we want to give them that reassurance, but when you have them in here like this …”
Her words trailed off as she scanned the line of face-down children. Then she quickly perked up, praising the youngsters for staying calm and following directions.
“Good job, Oak Street!” Miller said.
‘Layers of protection’
Ronny Lieurance, chief of police for Goddard schools, said the bond would restore equity to the district by bringing older buildings up to modern standards.
Eisenhower High School and other schools built as part of the 2007 bond issue have storm shelters and other modern amenities.
“You don’t ever want to get into a tug-of-war: ‘Well, why are these kids on this campus more important than these kids on this campus?’ ” Lieurance said. “It’s nobody’s fault. … Architectural trends changed, building design changed, FEMA standards changed.
“It’s been a puzzle for the last 20 years, trying to make sure our buildings are equitable,” he said. “These projects would make sure everybody has the same level and layers of protection.”
As part of the bond, classroom doors throughout the district would be upgraded with hardware that allows teachers to lock the door from inside the classroom, an update many districts made in response to school shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn.
In Goddard, the site of the only fatal school shooting in Kansas history, they still talk about potential threats in hushed tones, and the desire to protect is front of mind.
“Parents have a very high expectation that when they send their children to school in the morning, they’d like them to come back in the same condition they were when they left,” said Lieurance, the police chief.
“It’s an awesome responsibility on our part to make sure we have the facilities and the tools in place to do our dead-level best to make that happen.”
Other projects slated in the proposed bond include major heating and air-conditioning upgrades, lighting and parking lot improvements.
Craig Phelps, director of maintenance and facilities for the Goddard district, said keeping buildings operating is a challenge with current budgets.
His annual allotment for parking lot repairs, for example, is $25,000. But sealing the parking lot at the Eisenhower campus alone would cost about $1 million, Phelps said.
“We do what we can. We bought rubber and started filling in cracks ourselves,” he said. “The problem is, before we get through the whole process, the others are already worn out, so the process just never stops.”
Same goes for an old boiler heating system at Challenger Intermediate School – the former Goddard Junior High – which is 60 years old and more temperamental than your average middle-schooler. Two years ago, during a brutal cold snap, the boiler went out and temperatures plummeted on one side of the building.
Herbig, the principal, rearranged classrooms and brought in space heaters. Crews were able to repair the system that year, but parts are getting harder to find.
“There are days when we just hope it works,” he said.
Yard signs and billboards in support of the bond issue – “YES for KIDS” – have sprouted up in west Wichita and throughout the Goddard district. So far, there doesn’t seem to be organized opposition against the bond, but supporters know any tax increase is a hard sell with many voters.
Stevens, the Goddard mom, said she is urging residents to see school improvements as a community investment.
“It’s a tax increase, but I think: Can you put a price on the safety of your kids? Or someone else’s children? Or the community?” she said. “I don’t think so.”