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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


It was a mixed bag of results for Iowa school districts last week when voters statewide went to the polls to determine the fate of school bond issues. In Waterloo and Washington, voters passed multi-million plans to improve and upgrade their facilities. But in three other communities—Elkader, Denver and Cedar Falls—bond issues failed. Denver and Cedar Falls came within a few percentage points of the “supermajority” or 60 percent approval needed. In Elkader, only 41 percent of voters said “yes” to over $6 million in improvements.

Locally, voter turnout was high, which Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp  found encouraging.

“I have been told that about 50 percent of (registered voters) voted, and that’s amazing,” he said. “The school board and I said all along that we wanted to hear how the community felt, so having a high voter turnout was very important to us.”

If it had passed, Central would have used the bond money to address major accessibility, classroom safety and building security issues. Without the bond money, a few things will get done but other projects will be shelved, some for potentially a long time.

“We have done some important things already to address security by limiting our building to one entry point and getting our staff and students trained in ALICE,” Trenkamp said, adding that Central will continue with ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) training.  Security cameras might be considered, although installing them would require some remodeling of the main office area and there are no funds for that.

“Other important areas that the remodel plan tried to address included unsafe classrooms,” Trenkamp continued. “These will continue to be used as we have no other space.  Our mechanical and plumbing issues are another major concern, and I am unsure what if anything we can do about that. Lastly, accessibility to our school will remain a concern that we cannot address without a bond.”

According to Trenkamp, the school’s regular budget has about $250,000 that the board can use it its discretion to maintain the facility. While that seems like a large sum, Trenkamp said it’s only enough to “maintain our current building as best we can.” The board could bond against the school’s sales tax revenue and/or physical plant and equipment levy, which would amount to about $4.5 million.

Said Trenkamp, “The concern with this approach is what do we do about purchasing a bus, technology and the many other things we use these funds for currently?” Of course, the board could scale down the current capital improvements plan and put that before voters.

In the coming weeks, Central school board members will look at the demographics of who voted and finalize next steps. Though much is still uncertain, there’s one thing Trenkamp states proudly and unapologetically: “As the leader of our school district, I promise never to back down from doing what is right for our kids and I will continue to look for ways to improve our education setting.”

Trenkamp also praised the Central Bond Committee for their hard work on the issue and local businesses that support the drive to improve the school.

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