Joplin Schools unveil renderings for proposed new school on Dover Hill
More information on bond issue given during press conference
JOPLIN, Mo. – In April, Joplin residents will vote whether or not to extend a bond to raise 25-million dollars.
If passed, the district would combine Columbia Elementry and West Central Elementary into one new school on Dover Hill.
The district says the bond would not increase taxes, just extend an existing bond that’s set to end in 2033 to 2040.
Residents currently pay 170 dollars a year on a 100-thousand dollar home under the current bond. Officials say that number would stay the same.
In a press conference at the Joplin Chamber of Commerce, Joplin Schools Superintendent Melida Moss unveiled architectural renderings on what the new school would look like on the outside.
The approximately 67-thousand square-foot school would have an entry from both Main Street and Murphy Boulevard and have a drive that’s long enough to fit approximately 200 cars for student pickup and dropoff.
It would also have a separate bus loop, keeping parents and busses separated during the busiest times of the day. The district also plans to widen the right turn lane from Main Street onto Murphy Boulevard.
Moss says the district is pushing the bond issue because of problems that exist at both Columbia Elementary and West Central.
“We are dealing with safety issues, we’re dealing with equity issues, and we want to be sure that we can do this in a fiscally responsible way. And at this point in time, we are able to do that because of our existing bonding capacity without raising taxes,” says Moss.
Columbia Elementary was built in the 1920s. The district says the school has significant structural issues, lacks the same secure entries that newer schools have, doesn’t have a viable storm shelter, and isn’t ADA compliant.
West Central Elementary was also built in the 1920s and has a number of similar issues. The district says there are safety concerns because of it’s proximity to 7th Street, that it has inadequate classroom sizes, and it isn’t ADA compliant.
“This is the best scenario for our entire community because it allows us to, again, address the safety and equity issues that are so prevalent with our campuses,” says Moss.
The district is currently in talks with MoDOT on whether or not part of Main Street would have to become a school zone if the school is built.
The district also says the school would sit on top of Dover Hill and well outside of the flood plain.
“It’s something that we’re extremely cognizant of and it’s been part of the discussion with the traffic engineer, Crossland construction and everybody that’s helped,” says Moss. “Those flood gates [on Murphy Boulevard] actually can move about forty feet to the west from where they are. But, there are times of heavy rain when those gates are closed. You’ll still have the option of exiting off of Main Street onto Murphy, and the roadway entrance onto the site is before you reach the flood plain. So, we’ll still be able to come in from the east and get onto the site.”
If the bond issue passes, Columbia Elementary will be torn down within a year of getting the new school built. West Central will also be torn down if they aren’t able to find a suitable buyer.
Kelsey Norman Elementary
Under that same bond, the district also plans to build an addition onto Kelsey Norman Elementary.
It would include an 8325 square-foot addition that would create more classroom space for traditional and special education classes, and remove the need for modular classroom trailers on site. The district would also create an outdoor play space.
Vote Yes Joplin
A resident and parent lead group called “Vote Yes Joplin” also kicked off their campaign to get people to vote for the bond issue.
The group wants the issue to pass because they say it would mean a better facility for students at Columbia and West Central, as well as a better learning experience for students at Kelsey Norman.
“I’m not only a Joplin school district graduate, but I also attended Kelsey Norman elementary school several years ago, and I have two students in Joplin schools. And as a parent, I feel like it is important to give all students the opportunity to learn in equitable learning spaces,” says Keli Perigo, Co-Chair of Vote Yes Joplin. “The learning spaces at Columbia and West Central aren’t up to 21st-century learning, and it will give kids and teachers the opportunity to have a lot more space to be able to do creative learning.”
Other parents KOAM talked to at the press conference were in support of the idea.
“The fact that it will not go up is a benefit. I know there’s some that would be like, well, our taxes would go down, but if our taxes go down, something else has to happen because these schools.. these schools are old, and we have to do something about this. Soon,” says Chris Miller, a Joplin resident and parent.
“Well I mean, you can leave things alone and everything will be okay, but if we don’t look for the future, it’s not a good thing for our kids and our community, it just isn’t,” says Todd Taylor, another Joplin resident and parent.
The bond issue will go before voters on April 7th.
If you want to learn more about the bond issue, click here.