Oak Ridge School District to vote on improving facilities

In less than two weeks voters from numerous school districts will head to the polls to decide if they support big-ticket improvement plans to renovate existing classrooms or in some cases build brand new schools.

One proposition on the April 3 ballot would help fund a long-term facility improvement plan at the Oak Ridge R-6 School District which serves families in parts of Cape Girardeau, Perry and Bollinger counties.

The $2.6 million plan has numerous improvement areas and is scheduled to happen in three phases over the next ten years.

During open to the public meetings parents at the rural school district have voiced concerns about the hefty price tag and the order in which the project would take place.

Roni Putz, a mother of two Oak Ridge students, is also the PTO president and said the plan has been in the works for about two years and involved the entire community including the school board, teachers, students and their parents.

"They involved everyone in this," Putz said. "I hope that people look at it as a way to better the entire district and not just a certain area."

Putz described phase one of the proposed plan as giving a facelift to existing facilities like building a new entryway and adding more classrooms, while phase two focuses on building new structures from the ground up such as the new early childhood center.

"Nobody is ever going to agree what is most important to do first, second, third and fourth," Putz said. "But that end goal is what is most important to me. The end goal is that our all of our kids are safe, all of our kids have the room to learn, and they have the opportunity which is a big one adding that vocational school."

If the proposal passes, superintendent Dr. Adrian Eftink said it would extend existing obligation bonds which would be one funding source of the overall facility plan, along with grants they apply for from the federal government and FEMA.

Eftink said enrollment in the school district has increased over the last several years and was part of the reason why school leaders made a plan to borrow $2.6 million.

"We based our calculations on a one percent growth over the next 15 years," Eftink said. "We chose to be as conservative as we could just in case something was to happen to the Oak Ridge School district, a large business moving out or something happening where property values would go down. That one percent is very conservative for that $2.6 million bonding capacity."

The proposal does not include a tax increase but the money will come from the growth of the tax base.

One proposed project that Putz believes most parents are on board with is resizing and reshaping parking lots and bus lanes leading into the school so it's more functional for dropping off and picking up their kids.

"The parking lot here we all know that when you pick your kids up its chaos," Putz said. "So it will be nice to expand that to where parents actually have room to park and stay and not be crammed out on the highway instead of being in here."

Those that live in the Oak Ridge district and still have questions can attend one more meeting before election day on Friday, March 23 at 7:30 a.m. at Bill's Place in Perryville, Mo.

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