While the mantra "no new taxes" could apply to consideration for funding for a new grade school for Storm Lake, residents should not have to resort to reading lips to find that school officials and board members mean what they say.
A School Infrastructures Local Option Tax (SILO), or the school-district equivalent of a Local Option Sales Tax, is the funding mechanism the school district believes will meet the need for a new grade school.
Some confusion has arisen lately in which some have said that a new bond issue would be required for a new school. That doesn't sit too well with those who question the possibility of another bond issue relatively on the heels of the Project Awaysis bond issue Feb. 8. Countywide, voters will probably also be asked whether they want to pay for a new jail sometime in the not-too-distant future.
But SILO funds would pay for a new grade school, since the Storm Lake Middle School bonds will be paid at about the same time that the district wants to look seriously at the project.
Advocates for a new grade school stress that the focus is not just that new is better.
Aging facilities at North, West, and South Schools present the aspect of energy inefficiency, not to mention duplication of space that could be consolidated under one roof. There is also the lingering issue of handicap access. The district could also benefit if some of the current school properties were placed on the tax rolls.
Current grade schools are "not only embarrassing but not adequate," said Storm Lake Community School District President Dr. Mark Schultz. He said limited facilities make innovative teaching "very inefficient".
In dealing with its diverse population, Schultz said, "having our school in one spot would aid us a lot."
And, while he considers himself a strong advocate of the neighborhood school concept, Schultz sees more advantages in the efficiencies of a single larger facility. "It's the physical and educational inefficiency of four old buildings that's an optimal impairment to our education," Schultz said.
The fact that the district owns adequate property near the current middle school makes building a new unified grade school more attractive. "We own it. There's plenty there," Schultz said of the property next to the middle school. "Twelve years ago the school board chose not to sell that land and it was a good choice."
If Storm Lake Community School District voters allow SILO funding to continue going to the school district, Schultz said the district could be seriously discussing a grade school in three to four years.
Schultz said an auditorium should also be considered for school and community events. "I think it's been put on the back burner," Schultz said. "It shouldn't be."
Schultz noted particular inefficiencies in North and West School. He said East School would make an excellent early childhood facility given its proximity to the Gingerbread House. The question of South School, formerly Storm Lake High School, remains unanswered.
"There's so much to be gained in efficiencies," Schultz said.