Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Amendment Seen as Way to Keep Pace with Schools Ballot Issue Would Raise District Bonding Capacity

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Amendment Seen as Way to Keep Pace with Schools Ballot Issue Would Raise District Bonding Capacity

Article excerpt

Officials of the two biggest school districts in St. Charles County say passage next Tuesday of Amendment 2 is vital to helping cure the headache of needing to build more schools but not being able to issue the bonds for them.

The amendment would raise the bonding capacity of school districts to 15 percent of assessed value from 10 percent.

The Francis Howell School Board passed a resolution July 18 in support of the amendment. While the Fort Zumwalt School Board took no formal stand, the members support the proposal, says the superintendent.

Lee Brittenham, Francis Howell superintendent, said that if voters would agree to a higher debt ceiling, "We could do more construction than currently and pick up a better pace in a growing school district." The best case for approval, he says, is that the district has "lots of students, a small number of schools and we're bumping up against the debt limit."

Passage of the amendment Tuesday would not increase taxes, supporters have noted. They also point out that approval by voters still would be needed for any bond issue.

"That is important for people to understand," said Brittenham.

Francis Howell is one of the fastest-growing and largest districts in the state. The district is studying whether to go year-around for middle schools. Already, the elementary schools are so crowded that Daniel Boone Elementary is the only one that is not on a year-around schedule.

When Jim Lange, director of planning and technology, began teaching at Francis Howell High School 28 years ago, that school had 350 students in grades 10 through 12. The district's total enrollment was about 2,000 then. "It was a very rural school district at that time," said Lange.

When school starts later this month, Lange says, there will be 9,484 students in the elementary schools, 393 more than the past school year's 9,091. That is an increase of 4.32 percent.

The middle-school enrollment is projected to be 3,543, which is 353 more than the 3,190 this past school year and a 11.07 percent increase.

High-school enrollment also will increase by about 246 from 4,823 students to a projected 5,069, an increase of about 5 percent.

Total enrollment will be going from 17,104 to a projected 18,096 students for an increase of about 5. …

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