Parkway School District seeking voter approval of $265 million bond issue for capital improvement projects

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 6:39 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) - Next Tuesday, the Parkway School District will ask voters to approve one of the largest school bond issues in state history.

The district is seeking approval of a $265 million bond issue designed to fund capital improvement projects district-wide. Each of the district’s school buildings would receive a variety of upgrades to infrastructure, including repairs on roofs, HVAC systems, exterior walls, windows and improvements to ADA accessibility.

“It’s really critical we stay on course with our facility improvements,” said Paul Tandy, a spokesman for Parkway Schools. “ It’s just like your home, if you defer things too long, it gets to the point where you can hardly keep up.”

Tandy said historically the district has gone to voters for approval every four or five years. Most recently, the district received approval from 70 percent of voters in 2018 for $120 million in bonds.

“We have been in a good process of every four to five years, and our facility team works really hard to keep track of when everything needs replaced,” he said. “If we get off track very long, it becomes very hard to catch up and then we have to go to voters and ask for a tax increase, and we really don’t want to do that.”

If approved, each elementary school would receive a new playground accessible to all students. Stevie Telken, who has three children in the district, said she hopes investments are made in infrastructure similar to curriculums.

“My sister and I both moved away, we both moved to the city and we moved back when we had kids because we wanted our kids to go to Parkway,” she said. “We need the buildings to be more accessible by all students, which they’ll notice.”

She’s also eager for improved playgrounds, which she said all community members can benefit from, whether or not they have children in the district.

“A lot of these elementary schools in particular in neighborhoods,” she said. “So grandparents, their grandkids can access the playgrounds at these schools on the weekends and after school hours so to have a playground that’s safe and inclusive to family members in the entire community, is pertinent.”

The bond proposal is a no-tax-rate increase issue, meaning the tax rate will not go up, but it will be prolonged and will not go down. The state of Missouri requires school districts to seek voter approval to re-issue bonds even if the tax rate remains the same.

The district said its ability to pay off existing bonds on time is the reason it’s able to go to voters without proposing a tax increase.

“Most of our schools were exploded and built in the 60s and 70s, almost 20 years before the ADA came out,” said James Swingle, Manager of Planning and Construction Services. “If you tour the district, while we have some beautiful architecture in our buildings, they don’t always represent ease of mobility, and that’s one thing we’re constantly battling.”

The bond would also apply funding toward renovating locker rooms in all of the high schools in addition to the pools, which haven’t been touched since the 1970s.

“They’re not normally as high a priority, there are always other priorities, but when our community steps up and says please, can you do something about the restrooms and locker rooms, we have to do something,” said Tandy.

Tandy said the district held several input sessions for community members to weigh in on district needs over the last year. One of the most talked about issues was bathrooms and locker rooms, adding some parents mentioned being embarrassed over the facilities when visiting athletic teams use Parkway facilities.

Additionally, the district plans to upgrade its cameras inside its school buildings.

“It helps us with investigations, whenever we’ve had anything happen and we need clarity of what actually occurred, some of these old cameras, it makes it difficult to even see things,” said Tandy.

For a comprehensive look at the planned projects, click here.