Prairiland ISD patrons receive information about $7.5M bond

PATTONVILLE — A few people gave input at Monday night’s public meeting, but most just listened as architects and school officials shared information about a proposed $7.5 million bond election scheduled May 1 for academic additions at Blossom Elementary and Prairiland Junior High.

Seemingly on the minds of some is whether adding classrooms at feeder campuses to the high school is an indication of increased enrollment that would push the district from 3-A to 4-A classification for University Interscholastic League competitions.

Superintendent Jeff Ballard assured the audience of about 45 people that an increase in classrooms would not increase enrollment that much, noting that Prairiland High School enrollment stands at roughly 310 students, well below cutoff numbers. Current 4-A classification begins at 515 students, according to University Interscholastic League sources.

“We don’t want to be a 4-A school; we are simply out of room,” Ballard said, adding that in some cases some classrooms at the junior high are now shared by teachers. “We’ve been kicking this can down the road both at Blossom and the junior high for several years.”

Still fluid, plans call for the addition of seven classrooms at Blossom with several classified as storm-certified. A multi-purpose room is in the plans to be used as an inside playground for younger students not involved in physical education classes for older students that take place in the gymnasium. At the junior high, plans are for eight classrooms.

Locations for both additions are still to be determined, as Parkhill architectural engineers David Fenley and Niecco Gentzer explained options. At Blossom, a geotechnical soil survey will determine the best location for the addition. Also to be considered is whether the multi-purpose room with its gym, restrooms and kitchen area will be free standing or connected to classroom additions. At the junior high, options for classroom locations include to the south of the current building or to the northeast corner, tying in classrooms with renovations to the school entrance by updating the look of the building and providing a security upgrade.

Not included in bond financing but through the general fund, plans call for work to begin this summer on a roughly $500,000 revamp of the traffic flow at Blossom Elementary to get a backup of cars off High Street, which runs in front of the campus, and ultimately Highway 82. Parkhill engineers and school officials are looking at several options, according to information shared at the Monday meeting.

Throughout the meeting, both architects and school officials stressed that the $7.5 million bond election would not increase property taxes but would be funded by increased tax revenue from solar farms already built in the district. Although the district limited taxable value on the maintenance and operations side of its tax rate, there is no limitation on the interest and sinking, or debt side, of the rate.

“We’ll have over $1 billion in added value for at least two years,” Ballard said, sharing a graph that showed bond payments will be structured to pay down principal substantially during the next five or six years while solar farm property values remain high, and then payments become smaller as those values decrease over the years. “That’s why we are excited; that we can build these classrooms without any cost to you guys.”

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