The Waukee Community School District is the fastest-growing district in the State of Iowa and they say it is time to build a second high school to serve its students. The district is asking for the public’s approval for the issuance of General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $117 million for its construction, with a special election taking place on Feb. 6.
The current Waukee High School facility has a functional capacity of 1,969 students, and they are already just 17 students shy of that this year with 1,952 students. District officials say that they will surpass the facility’s functional capacity by next year.
“The primary reason (for building a second high school) is providing opportunities for students both inside and outside the classroom,” said Waukee Community School District Associate Superintendent. “Providing great learning opportunities for our staff and our community.”
The Waukee Community School District is currently the eighth biggest school district in the State of Iowa and the only district with more than 10,000 students and only one high school to serve them. It is currently the fastest growing district in the state, growing by more than 560 students per year, according to the district.
It is projected that there will be nearly 2,500 students at Waukee High School by 2021-22, which would result in about 1,250 at each facility if they are split evenly.
The facility will be paid for with general obligation bonds, but will not have an impact on property taxes in the district. The district’s current property tax rate is $17.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, with $4.05 going towards debt service, which is the maximum, so that portion of the rate cannot go up.
“We do have a history in Waukee of paying off our bonds early,” McDonald said. “We’ve saved about $13 million over the past several years by paying off debt early.”
Waukee School District Chief Financial Officer, Lora Appenzeller-Miller said that paying off debts early and increased property valuations in the city have helped clear the way for the $117 million they need for the new facility.
Funds from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) will be used to pay for sports fields and improvement costs.
About $1 million of the General Obligation Bonds will be dedicated to making improvements at the current Waukee High School. There is not a specific plan for that money yet, but it could include paint, carpet, new furniture or new equipment.
Sonja Sorrel, a parent in the district with children in first and third grades at Grant Ragan Elementary School, was a part of the bond referendum committee for this project, as well as for the bond referendum for Grant Ragan Elementary School.
“I really appreciate the progressive nature of this district,” Sorrel said. “I feel like they anticipate problems before they become a challenge for our students and impact learning. So I thought it was really important to get involved to help other parents learn about the importance of building the second high school.”
She said that she is thrilled with the way the project is coming together.
“I really believe that by having two facilities, we get all the benefits of being a part of a large school district, but the smaller feeling of being in… two smaller facilities rather than one giant high school.”
The facility will be located on 160 acres of land north of Hickman Road and east of 10th Street. The school facilities, including sports fields, will be located on the southern two-thirds of that land, with the city owning the other third and constructing a new Waukee Youth Sports Complex.
They are currently still in the planning phase of the project and the designs are still tentative.
Next, a committee will develop and recommend boundaries for the elementary students, effective for the 2019-20 school year, and the high schools, effective for the 2021-22 school year. A recommendation is expected in November, and approval by the School Board is expected in December.
The referendum requires 60 percent approval and the school is slated to open for the 2021-22 school year if it passes.
The polls will be open on Feb. 6 and voters can cast their votes at either The Waukee Community School District Administrative Office at 560 Southeast University Avenue in Waukee, or at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church at 7075 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voters can also vote absentee by filling requesting an absentee ballot from the Dallas County Auditor’s Office.