WAUKEE, Iowa — The Waukee School District is the only district in Iowa to have over 10,000 enrolled students and only one high school. Officials are hoping that will change for the class of 2022, but building a new school costs money, and they have one more hurdle to clear before securing the funding.
On Tuesday, residents in the district will vote on a $117 million bond proposal to build a second high school. On Saturday morning, administrators held their last informational meeting before the vote, and now the future of the district is in the hands of the people.
According to the school district, Waukee High School is at 99% functional capacity, and with Waukee adding 478 new students per year, parents at the meeting say they understand they need a new building and they need to do it now.
“If the referendum doesn’t go through, it doesn’t alleviate the problems with the number of students and growth that will continue to happen. If it does fail, it can’t be reintroduced for another six months on the ballot for a vote. That only further kicks the problem down the road and ultimately could increase costs as well,” said Jared Zatloukal, who is voting for the proposal.
If the referendum passes on Tuesday, costs on property taxes won’t change.
“Currently, the amount of property taxes dedicated to public schools in Waukee is $17.85. Of that $17.85, $4.05 goes towards debt service. That would be the maximum amount of debt service we could include in that rate, so it really doesn’t impact our tax rate,” said Superintendent Cindi McDonald.
Knowing that, along with the indisputable numbers behind Waukee’s growth, most parents expressed their next questions aren’t about whether or not they’ll build a second high school, but rather which future classes will be going there.
“This is going to happen, it has to happen, and so what we want to know is how will it affect our student that may or may not be in the new high school, may or may not have a graduating class split up at some point in time, how does it affect them in their activities, where will they be practicing? Those types of things,” said Chris Andrews, a parent of students who may attend the new high school.
The district says those questions will be answered once the bond proposal gets passed and they have a solid date for construction to be finished. They have already created a boundary committee that will draw up the lines of which students will go to which school.
“It really will take us about 12 months. We’ll have two public forums, so we’re excited parents can come in and share some of their thoughts as well. The first one is February 13 and then another one in October,” said McDonald.
While many at Saturday’s meeting had no reservations about passing the bond referendum, that can’t be said for everyone. Some in the area are concerned over how the district will handle taxpayer dollars after it had to settle a nearly $1 million wrongful termination lawsuit in January.