By Josh Letner
NEOSHO, Mo. —
Members of the Neosho Board of Education during a meeting Tuesday afternoon set the stage for at least the possibility of seeking a bond issue to pay for more classrooms in the not too distance future.
Brett Day, board president, after listening to school administrators outline overcrowding issues, declared that one thing was clear, that the district is bursting at the seams.
“The first thing we have to do is to define the problem, and that’s what this meeting is all about,” he said.
The 2012-13 enrollment for the district is estimated at 4,342, up from 4,254 in 2009-10.
Superintendent Alma Stipp says the enrollment figures for this year are based on early enrollment figures and are likely to change as students enroll in August and September.
Administrators offered solutions ranging from shuffling classrooms, to redrawing service boundaries for elementary schools, or adding new or mobile classrooms. Day told the administrators that he is no fan of mobile classrooms, but they may be necessary to solve the immediate issues. He says all solutions are on the table because the situation in the district is becoming severe.
But Rick Cook, assistant superintendent, apparently had the numbers at hand. He told the board that the district has the capacity to borrow $29 million, with voters’ blessing. He said there are financial incentives to borrowing now because the district could get an interest rate as low as 2 percent.
Day said the board and the community need to act now to stave off what could be a calamity in years to come.
“We can do some things to get by next year and maybe we can get by the year after that, but in about three to five years from now, if we keep getting new students like we are, we’re going to end up with 30 to 35 kids in a classroom and the learning will suffer,” he said. “As a school board, it’s our job to let the people know about that and if they decide not to pass a school bond, so be it, but we have to at least try.”
Both Day and Cook acknowledged that the sluggish economy might cause some people to be reluctant to support a bond issue, but newly elected school board member Steven Douglas said the community has put off school improvements for too long already.
“We’ve spent 30 years sticking fingers in the dam,” he said. “We need to build new schools.”
Day says economic concerns could be a positive factor for the district because quality school can draw new residents and businesses to the community.
“We have a lot of people in this community that don’t have to have a kid in school to support the schools, and we’re going to reach out to them and those sitting on the fence wondering if the cost is justified, we’re going to win them over too; that’s what we have to do,” he said.
The Neosho School Board will meet next at 7 p.m. Monday in the Neosho Administrative Center.