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Lafayette County Schools hold information session for bond issue

The Lafayette County School Board held the first of two general information sessions regarding plans for a new lower elementary school building and a bond issue, which will be up for a vote on Sept. 11.

Lafayette County School District Superintendent Adam Pugh opened the meeting by explaining the need for a bond and a new school, citing overcrowding issues that are projected to worsen by approximately 2.5 percent every year.

“We’ve exceeded capacity in every one of our buildings,” Pugh said. “In sitting down and talking with Casey Rogers of Innovative Construction Management, we said, ‘What can we do to best meet our needs here?’ We decided that, if we built a new elementary school, we could move our pre-k, and solve the overcrowding from the bottom up.”

The new Lafayette Elementary School will feature what architect Rud Robison of PryorMorrow described as a “three-legged stool” design, with a combined preschool and kindergarten wing, a first grade wing and a second grade wing. Each wing connects to the P.E. gym as a central hub. The gym will also double as a safe room that Robison said will meet FEMA standards, including withstanding 250 mile-per-hour winds.

The front of the school will resemble the archways on the exterior of the Lafayette High School commons area, and feature side porches and secured entryways. The school will be located on County Road 406 on land leased from the county.

Pugh said that in initial planning discussions, the board had also hoped to move third grade out of the upper elementary school and add it onto a separate wing at LES. However, the district’s borrowing capacity will not allow for that at this time, he said.

“You can only borrow 15 percent of your assessed value, and our assessed value in the county is around $155 million. Fifteen percent of that is going to be somewhere between $23 and $24 million,” Pugh said. “It’s going to be closer to $23 million than $24 million, but when you see the ballot, it’s going to say, ‘not to exceed $24 million.’ We can’t generate that much, but we wanted to put that cap on there because we’re not trying to pull any wool over anyone’s eyes.”

Pugh also confirmed the lifetime of the bond will be approximately 20 years. Board attorney Jim Young, who was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, has previously been quoted saying the effect of the bond on the average taxpayer would be .001 per $1,000, or a 1-mill tax increase for property owners.

Rogers also addressed the audience, explaining that the elementary school is overpopulated by about 153 students as of the start of the meeting. It’s a figure he said, and Pugh agreed, directly correlates to the performance of students.

“The good problem is having a lot of students in a growing area,” Rogers said. “But it creates a bad problem if we don’t build for the future.”

The alternative to building for the future, Rogers said, is adding more portable classrooms.

LCSD currently has five leased trailers for classroom space: two for the lower elementary, one for the upper elementary and two for the middle school.

Rogers said that increasing the number of trailers with the growing demand of classroom space would be impractical. By 2038, for example, the district would have 27 trailers on its campus. Rogers also presented a model for how that arrangement would look, explaining that many trailers is not realistic.

There is one more opportunity for Lafayette County taxpayers and parents to ask questions and voice their concerns before the bond issue is taken to a vote. A second information session will be held on Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the LHS Commons area.