In a close vote, Arcadia area residents approved a $14 million referendum to fund a new Arcadia School District middle school building and improvements to the elementary school. This is the second referendum attempt by the district this year and the third in recent history. District officials revised their plans after voters rejected a $24 million proposal in April. The more modest proposal succeeded earlier this month with a 53 percent majority (556 votes to 492), according to district officials.
Under the district's proposal, a new middle school building will be built next to the existing high school. Currently middle school and elementary classes share a building. The new $12 million structure will hold 20 classrooms, a media center, commons, and a gymnasium. It is expected to be ready for students by fall of 2015. The remaining $2 million in new debt will pay for upgrades at the current elementary school, including the replacement of doors and windows, heating and cooling system replacements and upgrades, and remodeling. That upgrade is expected to be completed by fall of next year.
The Arcadia School District's enrollment has surged in recent years, largely due to an influx of young families employed by local manufacturers. Enrollment at the elementary and middle schools has increased by 15 percent in the last 15 years, according to administrators. Estimates call for the trend to continue. "We were running out of classrooms," said middle school principal Sam Ruud.
The district will still be paying off debt on the high school until 2017. District officials plan to spend $809,000 from reserves over the next four years to offset the increased debt payments during that time period. Once the high school is paid for, the property tax rate for school borrowing will remain the same as it has been: $2.31 per $1,000 of assessed value. "I think that was the big factor" in making the most recent referendum palatable to voters, said Superintendent Louie Ferguson. "We're pretty excited," about the proposal's success at the ballot box. The district plans to pay off the funds borrowed for the new middle school by 2039.
The new middle school will still share certain facilities with the high school, including kitchens, music rooms, and classrooms for advanced courses. Replacing drafty windows and upgrading the heating and cooling systems at the elementary school will result in savings, Ferguson said. Having the middle school and high school side by side will save on transportation costs, too, he added. Currently, middle school students are bused to the high school for certain classes.