I support Dr. Ulrich and Administration’s plan because it enhances safety.
It brings concrete security improvements to several existing schools, including secure entrances and added cameras. By alleviating current and future overcrowding, it also mitigates the safety risks exacerbated by having too many people in too small of a space and remediates accessibility concerns on our campuses.
I also support the plan because it invests in our community.
This bond is the most fair approach for Kirkwood property owners. It allows for the continued and future success of our schools, a critical long-term value for our community. It works within in our near-record-low historical tax rates, and does so in a responsible way that deploys our resources when they are needed and finances it at attractive interest rates (currently well below 1%). If passed, our debt service levy will be the second lowest in St. Louis County. It also keeps our Prop K commitments: (1) to not seek an operational tax increase for at least five years; and (2) to protect our class size and educational quality.
Moreover, by increasing capacity by approximately 40 additional classroom, it it a right-sized solution. The overall trend for over a decade has been persistent increases in KSD resident enrollment, persistent (though small) increases in Kirkwood’s total population, and a trend of increasing “capture” of live births into our school system — that is, more families are moving in after their children are born and fewer children are leaving Kirkwood or choosing to be educated outside of KSD. While these trends were briefly disrupted in the 2020-21 school year when our enrollment numbers became “official” before we announced the re-opening of schools, we have already seen enrollment increase as expected now that our schools have re-opened. These factors, and tracking of Kirkwood’s birth rates, suggest that enrollment after 2025 will continue to grow.
Prop R also protects and advances equity and diversity in our District.
Without enhancing capacity, we would almost certainly need to end the practice of allowing the children of non-resident teachers and staff from attending KSD, a move which would make it harder to recruit high quality teachers in general and high quality teachers of color in particular.
The plan also promotes excellence. It allows class sizes, and staffing to be closer to recommended levels for student achievement. Overcrowding currently prevents teachers from being able to prepare, to create respectful and appropriate spaces for one-on-one interactions, and to implement educational tools. In the next 24 months it will also require class size increases in violation of commitments we made when Prop K passed, against best practices, and despite district classrooms, many built a hundred years ago, are smaller and lack modern educational features found in comparable districts. It also allows teachers and administrators to better tailor instruction for all students.
The plan responsibly maintains key infrastructure, such as HVAC and boilers, allowing the District to replace outdated, unreliable, and inefficient systems at the most appropriate and responsible time.
I do not believe we can delay. Our students are currently suffering from overcrowding at several of our schools. We have large enrollment growth projected for immediate future, meaning there is no way to accommodate students in 2022 unless capacity increases are approved now. Finally, available bond rates are favorable at this time, allowing the community a bigger bang for its buck. There is no guarantee these rates will be available to us in the future.
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