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SHAWNEE, Kan. — Another election is coming up for voters in the Shawnee Mission School District. 

The district is asking for approval of a $264 million bond issue to pay for new schools and more teachers.  

The bond measure to increase property taxes comes at a tough time. Middle and high schools in the district are still closed, with kids learning online. Families are facing economic challenges during the pandemic. But the district is hoping the small fee will continue to reap big benefits for students, staff and the community.  

Rafaela Valdez is a Shawnee Mission Schools parent. It’s a dream come true for the mom of three, who bounced around growing up and wanted her kids to complete school in the district she graduated from.

“I had the teachers there, I’ve had perfect, awesome experiences with so I wanted to keep them in the school district,” Valdez said.  

But 2020 brought unexpected challenges. Both of her school-age kids have learning disabilities.  Remote and hybrid learning’s been hard, especially for her middle schooler.

“It’s been a struggle with my oldest because she’s does focus a little bit better when she is in person,” said Valdez.  

She’s concerned Shawnee Mission is now asking parents to pay more in proeprty taxes with a $264 million bond issue.

“The decisions they’ve made, I haven’t been too happy with,” Valdez said.  

The district says getting this bond before voters has happened with lots of parent and educator involvement from the start as part of the Shawnee Mission’s strategic planning process. It would only cost $8 more per year for every $100,000 in property owned.  

“We know in the end our community wants strong schools. It’s why people live in this community. So we know we need to do the work to make that happen,” said David Smith, SMSD chief communications officer.  

The bond would pay for five new elementary schools to replace Pawnee, John Diemer, Rushton, Tomahawk and Westwood View, along with remodeling the early childhood and career tech centers.  

It also moves maintenance salaries into the capital fund to free up funding for more than 70 new teachers, giving existing staff more planning and collaboration time, whcih was a key demand in last year’s contentious union negotiations.

“I think the return that we would get would be beneficial to every homeowner that lives here,” Smith said.  Ballots for the special election are in the mail and should start arriving to voter homes this week.  They’ve got to be return to the election office by January 26.