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What’s Next for Urbandale Schools After Bond Proposal Passes

URBANDALE, Iowa -- The City of Urbandale is getting two new elementary schools, but unlike bond proposals in districts like Waukee and Ankeny, taxpayers will be seeing their rates go up.

Tuesday night about 70% of Urbandale voters approved the 59 million-dollar bond proposal.

In addition to the new elementary schools the high school will be getting its first dedicated fitness center.

Taxpayers will be seeing an increase of $.25 per $1000 of taxable property value, but in return the school district says the new elementary schools will allow them to stay on the cutting edge of education.

As the vote totals came in, Urbandale Schools Superintendent Steve Bass realized they were about to get the green light.

“I was very emotional, I actually was crying for a minute. It's been 15 months that we've worked, and I believe in my heart that it's the best thing for our kids and our community” said Bass.

To put the cost into perspective, the average Urbandale home owner will see their taxes go up by about $33 per year.

“We feel pretty good about that, that it's not a huge increase to get what we're getting and it addresses needs such as equity, because now all of our kids will be in 21st century schools” said Bass.

The plan calls for the district to demolish and rebuild two of their elementary schools, and then shut down another two for good.  The plan will be carried out in stages.

In the summer of 2019 construction will start on a new school where the current Olmstead school stands. The new school will open in 2021. Construction on the second school where Valerius Elementary stands is slated to start in the summer of 2023 and will open in the fall of 2025. The new schools will be double the size of the current ones.  Bass says the bigger buildings will allow the district to save money by shutting down Jensen and Rolling Green Elementary and consolidating schools.

“We can save 1.8 million dollars a year by getting to four schools” said Bass.

Now the pressing question is: Where will nearly 300 Olmstead students go when construction starts in a year and a half?

“That's probably been one of the biggest questions, 'where are we going to place students?' We've actually talked with several different places including churches. We think we have a place depicted and it is a church, which they requested that we not go into detail until after the referendum were to pass, so we'll start working on the detail of where we'll place those students” said Bass.

Bass hopes to have those logistics worked out over the next month. He says while displacing students for two years isn't an ideal situation, the payoff is going to be worth it.

“When we look at the short-term pain for the long-term benefits, it's a really good thing. The ones that we'll be retiring, they've served us well, but they were built in a different time period. If we really want to get away from the stand and deliver and we want to get kids actively involved and problem solving and have maker space and be creative thinkers, we can’t have them in a box.

Bass says with steady enrollment and no substantial way for Urbandale to expand, he can’t foresee Urbandale ever needing to bond for a second high school like some of its bigger neighbors.