Residents in Riley, Leonardville and surrounding areas of Riley County in the USD378 school district boundaries could see a $15 million school bond issue on this upcoming November ballot.

The Riley County Schools Board of Education passed a bond resolution at its most recent meeting, with the next step to get the question on this upcoming ballot being a meeting in August with the Kansas Board of Education for approval. Superintendent Cliff Williams told KMAN on Wednesday’s In Focus that the intent of the bond is to provide funds for maintenance and capital improvements at its two buildings.

The district has attempted similar bond issues in 2013 and 2016, both of which failed by a two to one margin. Williams says they’ve made an effort to listen more to the public about what they think is necessary and financially prudent and that recent surveys show 70 percent approval by the public.

“We’ve tried to pride ourselves on really listening to what our people have had to say and what they would support,” says Williams. “It’s always the question of what can you really afford?”

One major difference from past bond issues is they have no plans to move 7th and 8th graders to the high school after hearing the lack of support for that idea from the public.

Williams says both of the schools have ADA issues and have building settling that needs to be addressed. A majority of the funds — an estimated $7.7 million — would be spent on their grade school including the installation of an elevator to the second floor as well as bathroom improvements, and replacing HVAC systems.

“Our youngest boiler is 36 years old right now.”

A big item for Williams to address safety concerns is the installation of a storm shelter, with possibilities including a gym or a traditional basement shelter. They also are looking to build some new classroom space to replace long-standing mobile units.

“Those modulars were intended to be temporary spaces and now they’ve all been there 20 plus years and are really deteriorating.

Another use of the funds they are looking at is the creation of a bus lane to separate bus and individual vehicle traffic.

“When we’ve got close to 500 kids coming out of that school, there’s a lot of kids going in different directions so if we could make that safer it would be a great thing for us.”

$4.3 million of the bond is planned to be devoted to Riley County High School, and the big project planned there is to improve fire protection.

“We’re about 2 miles away from Riley and a little bit over that from Leonardville,” Williams says. “We need to make sure that we have enough water up there in case that if we would have a fire that we could handle that.”

Williams says they will continue to work out finer details and work to provide the public that information.

“We’ve just tried to really listen more and have a better understanding of what our families want for their students and what they want, ultimately, from a graduate.”

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