Education

Marion Independent schools seek $31 million bond for facility projects

Plan includes a new elementary school, auditorium, outdoor activities project and other renovations

Marion Independent School District Superintendent Janelle Brouwer (Molly Duffy/The Gazette)
Marion Independent School District Superintendent Janelle Brouwer (Molly Duffy/The Gazette)
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MARION — The Marion Independent School District is seeking at least 386 signatures from registered voters to pursue a $31 million bond issue for facility projects.

The district’s school board earlier this month unanimously endorsed a $36 million facilities plan. It includes building an auditorium and outdoor activities complex at Marion Independent High School, making repairs to the high school, building an elementary school and renovating Francis-Marion Intermediate School, including a new secure entrance.

The project would be funded through a tax-rate neutral $31 million general obligation bond and an existing statewide SAVE penny sales tax for school infrastructure. The district has paid down its debt but the rate would not decrease if the bond issue passes.

For the bond to go to a vote March 2, the district needs 386 signatures from registered voters in the district, and an additional 100 signatures to have a satellite voting location at Vernon Middle School before the March 2 election. Signatures are due Monday.

The bond issue requires 60 percent majority voter approval in the district to pass.

There are two petitions circulating in the district and also available at school building and district offices.

The district’s Facilities Advisory Committee has been working over the last several months to identify primary building needs, Superintendent Janelle Brouwer said in a YouTube video introducing the facilities plan to the community.

The new auditorium at the high school campus, 675 S. 15th St. Marion, would increase seating from 300 to 800 and is a $7.70 million project.

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The current auditorium is too small and is an aging facility that needs renovation, Brouwer said. It would be converted into more classrooms.

The exterior of the high school also requires repairs to crumbling brick walls.

The outdoor activities complex, a $5.70 million project, would be moved from its location at Thomas Park to the high school. Brouwer said Thomas Park “sustained significant damage” in the Aug. 10 derecho.

The facilities committee considered where money would be best spent: renovating the existing facility or relocating the complex to the high school.

“Cost-wise, it was equal between renovations and upgrading and relocating that facility,” Brouwer said.

If the bond passes, a new elementary school is proposed on the Thomas Park Field and would replace Starry Elementary School, 700 S. 15th St., Marion, a $15.3 million project. Starry would be renovated to add high school classes.

Finally, the facilities plan includes renovating Francis Marion Intermediate School, 2301 Third Ave., Marion.

An addition and secure entrance would be added, aging classrooms would be updated and the oldest wing in the building taken down. This would allow for better traffic flow and new classroom space, a $6.60 million project, Brouwer said.

The facilities plan would meet student needs now and in the future, Brouwer said, and prepare students to be “future ready.”

Brouwer did not specify a timeline for the project if the bond passes.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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