When the Easton Valley Community School District was established in 2013 a vision for facility and grounds improvements was developed. The short term goals included repairs and remediation of existing infrastructure to ensure the safety of the school grounds in all the communities our district serves. The second stage of the vision included major renovations and new construction to improve the quality of our teaching and learning spaces. Once these priorities were addressed, our long term plan was to invest in our extracurricular spaces to further meet the needs of our students and community.
As we reflect back on the last ten years and see how far we have come in such little time, we can take immense pride in what our community has accomplished by working together. The dedication of our staff, combined with the support of our families and taxpayers, has allowed us to deliver on our commitment to provide safe schools and a high quality educational experience for the young people in our community. In less than ten years we have built two new additions on our junior high & high school building, rebuilt a majority of our elementary school, added an addition on our elementary school, and have completed substantial renovations throughout our existing infrastructure on both campuses. As a result, our buildings offer safer school environments, are equipped with high quality spaces for teaching and learning, and provide an expanded offering of educational opportunities. It is also important to note that we have all accomplished this while remaining true to our commitment to keep property taxes under $15 per $1,000 of valuation.
It is evident that our school community has made considerable progress toward our vision. We are now in a position to turn our attention toward the final stage of our original vision by seeking to improve our extracurricular spaces. Our current reality is that we lack the facilities to adequately support the growing needs of our extracurricular programs. The need is most evident in the areas of athletics, performing arts, and music programs. One of the most notable gaps in our extracurricular infrastructure is the lack of a track for our students to utilize in our track and field program. Our limited amount of gym space also makes it extremely difficult to meet the needs of our school programs while still supporting community needs. Even our performing arts programs have to compete for time to utilize the stage to prepare for their shows while other extracurricular programs occupy our gyms and stage areas. Even when the stage is available, it is far from an ideal setup for our musical performances and audiences that come to see our students perform.
These challenges led us to begin exploring potential solutions. In early 2023 district administrators began connecting with existing partners to gather information that would help guide us toward the most effective and cost efficient solutions. Many different scenarios and solutions were discussed and explored. The most obvious solutions that emerged early on included an outdoor track and a new gym with a competition-size court. Another idea that was shared by some of our coaches was the possibility of a field house that could house an indoor track along with multiple courts and other amenities that could be used by all of our extracurricular programs. A hybrid solution such as a field house became an appealing possibility because of how it not only addressed many needs for our school and community, but it also significantly expanded opportunities year round when weather and temperatures in Iowa limit outdoor activities. The field house idea generated additional interest when it became evident that it would also create space for us to convert our current high school gym into an auditorium for performing arts, instrumental music, and vocal music performances.
As we investigated the matter further, the benefits of a field house significantly overshadowed the benefits that an outdoor track and new gym could offer, but at what cost? To our surprise, we learned that the estimated project costs were not as far apart as we would have suspected. Through our collaborative efforts with our construction and design partners they estimated the cost of an outdoor track and new gym at nearly ~$12.5 million dollars. The field house estimate came in as low as ~$13.5 million dollars with additional add-ons that could take the cost up to ~15.5 million dollars. When we presented these findings to members of our school board they agreed that for a relatively similar cost the field house was by far the most comprehensive solution to the facility-related challenges we face.
The next stage of this facility planning process involved a financial analysis to determine our ability to generate the resources needed to fund the project and understand how this would affect Easton Valley tax payers. What we learned is that through the passage of a general obligation bond combined with funding through existing PPEL notes we could generate between ~$13.5 and ~$15 million dollars. Most importantly, we are confident in our district’s ability to do this while staying under the $15 per $1,000 of property value that our school board committed to nearly five years ago. In the coming days and weeks we will be communicating details related to how our district can fund a project of this scope and how we would keep our tax rate under the $15 levy rate.
As these pieces of information became available and were informally shared among members of our community, a group of residents expressed interest in circulating a petition in an effort to have the necessary questions placed on the November 2023 election ballot. This past week petitions that exceeded the minimum number of signatures were presented to our business office. The petitions were presented to our school board and resulted in the adoption of a resolution, which will empower Easton Valley residents with the opportunity to vote on the possibility of constructing a field house when they go to the polls November 7, 2023.
As mentioned previously, a significant amount of detailed information will be shared in the days to come. This information will include conceptual design images, financial details, the pros and cons of the proposed field house solution, a more detailed explanation of timelines and deadlines, times and locations of public information sessions, and more. It is also very important to understand that any images and configurations that are shared are simply conceptual designs. They do not in any way reflect a final product. Their purpose is to help all stakeholders envision the possibilities. If the bond passes we will further engage all stakeholders by sending out surveys, holding community forums, and gathering as much input in as many ways as possible to further develop and refine the field house plan that will best meet the needs of our students and community.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who has partnered with us to help the Easton Valley Community School District reach the heights we are at today. We are equally excited for our future together. As always…IT IS GREAT TO BE EV!