Chapman — Nearly a year after a tornado roared through this northeast Kansas town, voters will decide whether to approve a bond issue to pay to rebuild its three public schools, which were damaged and destroyed.
Students go to modular classrooms that were installed last summer to keep the school year on track after the June 11 twister that killed one woman. The north part of the high school was salvaged and is used as a hybrid kitchen-lunchroom-music facility, said Superintendent Tony Frieze.
On April 7, residents of the Chapman school district — 3,685 in Dickinson County and 488 in Geary County — will vote on an $8.2 million bond issue that would help pay to construct a new elementary school and education center and repair and rebuild the middle and high schools.
Bond supporters say that without the schools, residents would need to get out-of-town jobs, local businesses would see fewer sales, and the population would fade. While opponents want the schools rebuilt, some don’t like the $8.2 million price locals would have to pay.
“I’d be real surprised if it doesn’t carry,” school board member Jon Londeen said. “If it doesn’t, our little town will pretty much die.”
The rebuilding will cost about $75 million, with the district’s insurance paying $20.2 million and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state kicking in $46 million.
“We’re getting $75 million worth of work for $8.2 million,” Frieze said.
Included in that cost are a new 68,758-square-foot elementary school on 20 acres west of the Kansas Auto Racing Museum; an 88,286-square-foot middle school; a 155,539-square-foot high school and a slightly smaller education center, all on their previous sites; and furniture, fixtures and equipment.
The district, with an enrollment of 976, currently has zero bond debt. If the general obligation bonds are approved, the mill levy would increase to 6.8 mills, below the state median of 8.94 mills.
A 6.8-mill levy translates to $3.26 a month for a $50,000 home, $4.89 a month for a $75,000 home and $6.52 a month for a $100,000 home, according to the district. The bonds would be repaid over 20 years, with an average interest rate of about 5 percent.
Kristine Meyer, the lone school board member voting against sending the bond issue to voters, said the board hasn’t shown how patrons can afford it.
“It’s OK if patrons send it back to the drawing board to come up with something all patrons can be behind,” she said.