Jan 27, 2021 7:39 PM

St. Joseph school officials have tough task ahead pushing $107M bond issue

Posted Jan 27, 2021 7:39 PM

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

St. Joseph school officials acknowledge it will be difficult to sell the $107 million bond issue on the April 6th ballot.

But they insist it is necessary for the St. Joseph School District to move forward.

School Superintendent Doug Van Zyl says the three high school system isn’t working any longer with Central High School classes mostly full.

“Where at Benton and Lafayette, we don’t always have all those classes have enough students and the ones that we do offer, sometimes there’s eight, nine, 10 kids sitting in that classroom,” Van Zyl tells host Barry Birr on the KFEQ Hotline. “And so, it’s not a good use of resources either. You really could have the two classes, one from Benton and Lafayette, together.”

The proposal before voters would convert Benton and Lafayette High Schools into middle schools and build a second new high school in a location yet to be determined.

Van Zyl says the new alignment would allow the district to create a better feeder system which would keep classes together from elementary school through middle school and then on to high school.

St. Joseph School Board Vice President Lute Atieh says an outdated school system is holding St. Joseph back.

“When you talk to people that have moved around in the last five or 10 years and you ask the parents what’s the number one deciding factor on where you’re going to move and it’s always schools,” according to Atieh. “Schools and employment are the top two things that are going to drive growth or drive us the other direction.”

Atieh says he understands this is a major decision which sparks a lot of emotions among St. Joseph residents. He says he wants voters to really consider the reasoning of the board before making a decision.

“If you take only the surface information, it’s very easy to make a decision ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Atieh says. “But when you dive in a little deeper, and what we’ve looked at for the last several years, it’s tough to get those level of details out so a voter can make a very informed decision, not just the surface or the emotional decision, but what’s going to happen, really, if we can’t make some progress.”

Under the proposal, Central High School would be upgraded and the St. Joseph School District would have a two high school system.