SHEPHERD – The Shepherd community will vote on a $17 million school bond on May 7.
Shepherd Superintendent Scott Carter said Friday it has been nearly 30 years since major upgrades were made to the existing campus, and the list of updates needed is a long one.
“At this point in time, our facilities are hindering our curriculum,” said Carter. “We are at 110 percent capacity in the elementary. This project is designed for one percent growth a year for the next 25 years. and there shouldn’t need to be another bond issue in there unless there is exceptional growth in the area.”
To make matters worse, a week into the school year, the kindergarten building was deemed unsafe for students due to poor air quality.
“It’s devastating,” said Carter. “They missed almost a week of school this year. Those are days we can never get back as education.”
Along with the interruption to their schooling, the district then had to find room in its already cramped buildings for the kindergartners.
“Once we lost our kindergarten building…there are kids in hallways learning and in closets and in spaces where they should never have to be to learn and receive a proper education,” said Becky Anderson, a parent at the school.
Carter said that the kindergarten building is over 100 years old, and it no longer makes sense to put money into an already old and dysfunctional building.
“We have limited budgets,” said Carter. “At what point do you say we need to quit throwing good money after bad and develop something that our students need and this community needs.”
As part of the plans, the building would be torn down along with the current library, which used to be a restaurant and now has septic problems as a result. A new 50,000-square-foot building would take its place and connect to the existing school structure, which also helps with the security concerns of the building by limiting points of entry.
There would also be about 23,000 square feet of renovated space, allowing for updates to science labs, the school kitchen and lunchrooms.
Because of the increasing student population, elementary students are now forced to eat their lunches in their carpeted classrooms, which means the cooks have to cart all of the meals around campus to get them to the students.
The renovations will also add a new consolidated weight room to make better use of the schools existing equipment.
“One of the biggest misconceptions with this bond is that it is athletic related and that is simply not true,” said Anderson. “John Barta was a former teacher here, and he basically gave the later portion of his life to that cause and we have all this incredible equipment but it’s not being utilized to its full potential.”
Abby Downing is a sophomore at Shepherd. She said it has been difficult to watch her school go without any updates while kids are running out of space.
“There has been some comments made that I don’t pay property taxes, I shouldn’t have to fight for this,” said Downing. “But it is my education, and my school and my community, and I am very passionate about it and I am going to fight for my education and those coming after me.”
After years of planning, many are hoping the time for change at Shepherd Schools is now.
“I think that now is the time to invest in our community,” said Matt Beddes, who has two kids in middle school at Shepherd, and graduated from high school there in 1996. “I think that it’s never gonna get easier or cheaper than it is today. We’ve got a good group of people on the school board, administrators… it is time for the community of Shepherd to get behind them.”
For more information on the proposal, as well as the exact tax impact based on your home, click here.