Center Schools asking for $48 million in bond money, in part, to replace aging elementary

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One educator compared it to a square peg in a round hole.

Parents at Indian Creek Elementary School are asking voters for big bucks, part of which is meant to replace the aging school, which saw its origin in the early 1970's.

A proposed bond will appear on the ballot April 2, asking voters to approve $48 million to make improvements to six schools in the Center School District and to replace Indian Creek altogether.

Educators complained to FOX4 that the old school building is no longer adequate. Parents said the school is unsafe since existing security systems don't fit the building's odd "octganular" shape and the classrooms are overcrowded.

"It can be very crowded," said Mark Cowie, a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Creek.

Cowie, who demonstrated the inadequacies of his existing classroom, said his area of the school holds 25 students and, in some cases, similar classrooms at the school are stuffed with as many as 29 students.

Hallways are tight with low ceilings, and the school's front door is confusing to visitors. That often presents a security risk when people accidentally enter the gymnasium, where classes are often held, instead of going to the school's office, which is only a few feet from the gym.

"The security at this school isn't what's expected of today. Maybe it was 25 years ago, but today, we need different measures," Cowie said.

A Center School District spokesperson told FOX4 the proposed bond measure would come at no tax increase to the public.

"Our classrooms have become overcrowded. Our hallways have become overcrowded," Billee Runnels-Potts, the school's behavioral interventionist, told FOX4. "It was great in the '70s, but I'm pretty sure the classroom sizes weren't as large."

Teachers and students said their growing enrollment, which is now 330 students, has outgrown the building, too.

"We need bigger classrooms. We need a bigger school for our students," Sara Clayton said.

Clayton, a paraprofessional within the school district, and her fourth-grade student, Larry, said the overcrowding inhibits learning within the student body, and the building's confusing layout presents a danger.

The Claytons said they fear that if students had to quickly escape in a hurry, they might be at risk.

"The way our building is shaped, a parent could come in and hide anywhere," Sara Clayton said. "Anything could happen and nobody would know it."

"There's no room to move anywhere. We just stand in one group in the hallway. We just keep on going. Our line is too big to fit into a classroom," Larry Clayton said.

Some voters may feel some sticker shock related to the $48 million price tag.

District leaders say some of that money will go toward other projects at other schools. Of that $48 million bond, $30 million worth of that total will be earmarked for upgrades at six other schools.

Moreover, improvements to schools can lead to a stronger neighborhood, district leaders say.

The nearby Hickman-Mills School District is a similar-sized district. It recently voted to close two elementary schools, a move that could save as much as $25 million.

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