BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The committee promoting the passage of a $27 million bond issue to build a new preK to 3rd grade elementary building is shifting gears with 7 days left until the election.
The KIDS Committee, which has peppered Fort Madison with “VOTE YES” signs in area neighborhoods, is hitting area media outlets, governmental agencies, social clubs, and service organizations in a last-minute effort to make sure the district voters understand the issues that are at stake with the new building.
Tuesday, Fort Madison Community School District Superintendent Erin Slater and Timm Lamb, president of the FMCSD School Board, met with Rotary members to answer any final questions floating out there about the new school.
Lamb said this isn’t just a vote for a new building, but for the well-being of the children, the community, and the economy of Fort Madison.
“We are not asking for this just so we can go plop down a new building out there. This is to make sure the children of Fort Madison have the best education possible,” Lamb said.
Lamb told the group the support should be there for Holy Trinity Catholic’s effort to construct a $6 million elementary school in West Point.
“You should be able to choose where you want your children to go to school, but no matter what your choice, it should be the highest quality learning environment we can give them.”
Lamb said pending approval of the district, the building will be a turn-key facility and the students will not be moved into the school until it is completely ready for instruction and the students can go in without any distractions.
Slater told the group the designs for the structure would take six to eight months when approved and then construction would begin and students would probably be in the building starting with the 2020-21 school year.
Slater showed the group a drawing that outlined how transportation would work on the grounds with the new facility saying buses and cars would be on separate drives to allow for easier pick and drop off. The new building would also have a separate drive for PreK-3rd grade but parents with children in both schools could drop off the older students at the same place with a small walk to the other building.
The $27 million would come in the form of a 20-year bond that would cost $2.64/month on a $75,000 assessed home in the district. That amounts to $31.68 a year and a total of $633 over the life of the bond for that homeowner.
The district built a brand new middle school that opened in 2012 after voters turned down a referendum to build it with bond money. The board was able to utilize sales tax monies allocated from the state to the districts to build the school without a referendum vote.
Lamb said that money was allocated to schools to be spent in the district and they were able to build that school at no cost to the taxpayers other than the money regularly spent on sales tax in the district.
A fall referendum was also rejected by voters by a 714-756 vote. To pass, the referendum needs 60% plus 1 vote.
Slater said other issues that have come up recently include playground equipment. She said playground equipment is planned in three different areas and includes moving the playground at Lincoln to the new elementary. There will be three play areas – one in between the two schools and two age-specific playgrounds on the east side of the proposed elementary.
There are four voting locations for district residents – two in Fort Madison at Roling Hall and the Fort Madison Public Library, Grace Bible Church in Wever and the West Point Public Library and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you haven’t registered to vote you may do so at the polls.