Francis Howell School District moves forward with parents, stakeholders to assign $60 million to student needs
ST. CHARLES COUNTY (KMOV) -- A first step in a renewed effort to have transparency and community with stakeholders over Prop S went underway in the Francis Howell School District Wednesday night.
In 2020, voters approved a $244 million referendum. At the time it was the largest in Missouri History.
New leadership, including a new superintendent of five weeks, is taking the lead on citizen roundtables to engage the community to play a role in decision making on top priorities for the district.
“You want to have open lines of communication and transparency between district and stakeholders,” parent Jarrett Pillsbury explained. “I’m very excited about this, it’s very promising.”
Parent and district teacher Heather Bitter said school safety is at the top of her list. Also, making sure what money remains from the referendum is shared among all schools equally.
“My building, Henderson, was supposed to get work done. we are teaching in closets and we are running out of space. So it was frustrating, however North had to happen,” Bitter said.
That’s a sore subject as construction continues on the new building.
When voters approved the $244 million referendum in 2020, the new high school was estimated at roughly $80 million to build. Then in 2021, the price tag jumped to about $160 million – a 90% increase.
In News 4′s report in March 2022, School Board Member Mike Hoehn said the district failed to communicate with the public after the proposition passed. The district amended its plans for the new high school, increasing its footprint from 350,000 square feet to around 410,000 square feet.
Read: Francis Howell school board candidates discuss handling of Proposition S funding, new Francis Howell North High School
Now, there is less money in this pot to tackle other needs across the district.
Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Roumpos said Wednesday night to a crowd of about 75 people that what’s most important to him is knowing what are the biggest priorities for the school community and how projects on the table best serve those needs.
“The community of Francis Howell and St. Charles County supported Prop S significantly and we need their input as we make these decisions,” Roumpos said.
The district said Wednesday night that $61 million is left of available funds. That won’t be enough to fund what’s on the table.
Prop S was passed with 55 projects listed.
As of August 10, eight are complete, 15 are in progress, and 32 remain. Those pending projects are estimated to cost about $200 million.
“Projects in every building are impacted, good stuff is happening for our kids,” Roumpos explained. “Even though we are making hard decisions, we should be focused on the positive side of this.”
More than 40 percent of Prop S is slated for deferred maintenance such as new roofs, AC units, and playgrounds
Roumpos said he understands the frustration but hopes engaging the community in how to select which projects to support will allow the community its support of the district.
Parents who talked to News 4 said Wednesday night is a good first step.
“Have these conversations, engage with your school community. Don’t just assume you know everything. Bring your shared experiences, they bring theirs and we can find solutions to common problems,” Pillsbury said.
“We can all come together, have those conversations,” Bitter explained. “What do you see in those buildings and with student safety as a priority and having what the students need being our first priority is awesome.”
Wednesday’s input will be shared with the district’s Faculty Advisory Committee and Prop S organizers. This information will help decide which Prop S projects are prioritized by the Board of Education for approval in the fall.
For anyone wanting to follow Board of Education meetings, you can visit the district’s website by clicking here.
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