Overcrowding and Expansion Plans Prompt $40 Million Discussion

Grand Island school leaders are in the beginning stages of proposing something that hasn't been done in 10 years – introducing a new bond issue.

The school district may soon present a bond to taxpayers and they spent much of the weekend looking into possible expansion plans during an annual retreat.

Members of the school board focused on two major issues they say the district must tackle; safety and space.

Executive director of business Virgil Harden said "We have kids in areas that were custodians' closets we have people being taught in hallways."

The changes to some buildings they are proposing will be funded through taxpayer dollars, but that doesn't necessarily mean a tax hike.

Harden said "It's a bond issue if you approve it won't cost you any more than you're paying if you don't approve it that money would come off and reduce your tax bill so it's not to say it's not a cost it's just not an increase."

That's why board members spent hours discussing ways to be mindful of taxpayers. They'd like to pass a bond with a $40 million dollar ceiling that would keep the current levy neutral.

They're narrowing down their focus on issues like overcrowding or updating old building structures that don't have proper walls or locks.

GIPS Superintendent Dr. Rob Winter, said "In a time when safety is on everybody's mind we have 3 centers (two in totality and one partially) that have open concept buildings which means they don't have classroom doors and in some cases the walls are curtains and bookshelves."

Dr. Winter said "So we have some concerns about trying to be able to have our kids safe if ever and hopefully that never happens, if ever there was an intruder how to we keep our kids safe."

Harden said the school board is very serious about moving forward and could expect a plan to be introduced to the community in three months and possibly a bond vote by fall.

The school district earlier identified up to $125 million in possible construction. The long-term planning list includes three new elementary schools, a new early learning center, and the possibility of another high school.