Baldwin City school district’s $17 million bond proposal would allow classroom updates and address safety concerns

photo by: DLR Group

This rendering shows an exterior view of a planned addition at Baldwin High School.

Next month, the Baldwin City school district is asking local voters to approve a $17 million bond proposal to expand and update classroom spaces at Baldwin High School and address safety and security concerns on the junior high and high school campus.

Baldwin City voters will decide whether to approve the bond in a special election set for Tuesday, May 14. The final day for voters to register for the election is Tuesday, April 23. The proposal calls for constructing two building additions totaling 14,500 square feet and renovating another 9,000 square feet of existing building space, along with building two new roads around the campus.

photo by: DLR Group

The site plan for the Baldwin City school district’s bond proposal.

For those who might be feeling some déjà vu, that’s because another bond issue was on the ballot for a special election in Baldwin City just a year ago. As the Journal-World reported, both the Eudora and Baldwin City school districts sought approval from voters for multimillion-dollar bond issues in 2023, with the list of Baldwin City projects including a large-scale renovation of the high school’s field and track.

The Eudora bond proposal was approved with overwhelming support, but the Baldwin City question lacked the same level of popularity. About 55% of voters rejected last year’s $25 million bond proposal, in part because it would have required increasing the district’s mill levy — the tax rate applied to the assessed value of a property.

The new proposal on the table this year is informed by feedback from that last attempt, according to Baldwin Superintendent Mark Dodge. The Journal-World spoke with Dodge about the upcoming election last week, who said one of the key differences this time around is that this set of projects wouldn’t require raising the mill levy.

“Our community really does not want to see any mills added to the (district’s) bond and interest on the budget,” Dodge told the Journal-World. “We heard that; we understand that the county appraisals continue to go up and do not want to see bond and interest mills be a part of that.”

Dodge said a current school district bond series will expire in September, so this one would replace it if it’s approved and be paid off over 20 years. Other current bonds approved by voters in 2008 are scheduled to be paid by 2030, Dodge said, and waiting to make further improvements until after then wouldn’t be cost-effective given the rise in construction costs.

A reluctance to increase the mill levy wasn’t the only feedback the school district has gathered. Dodge added that community members said they weren’t interested in athletic improvements like what was proposed last year and instead wanted the district to focus on education, safety and security.

Those areas are certainly the focal point this time around, though they weren’t absent in 2023. The previous proposal called for a new classroom space for the district’s Career and Technical Education programs for drafting and construction — still included with the list of projects for this year — and improvements to parking.

Both those improvements have stuck around with added emphasis in the latest proposal, with more significant upgrades to classroom spaces perhaps the biggest highlight. That’s especially important, Dodge said, because the district’s shop building where Career and Technical Education classes — also known as “pathways” — are housed is nearly 50 years old and has ongoing maintenance issues as a result.

photo by: DLR Group

This rendering shows a commons area that would be added to the renovated Career and Technical Education facilities.

Dodge added that the current classrooms in the building simply don’t have enough space for the high number of students enrolled in some of the more popular pathway programs. Those courses range from programming and software development to more traditional technical training like wood and metal shop classes.

Overall, pathway classes are popular enough that 70% of Baldwin High students are enrolled in at least one of them.

“Programs are literally on top of each other, so there’s a need for additional space there,” Dodge said.

One good example is the school’s culinary arts program, titled “Restaurant and Event Management.” Dodge said that’s one of the more popular Pathway programs that the school offers, with 125 students enrolled in the program during the first semester of this school year and 135 enrolled this semester.

Right now, those students have access to more traditional “home ec” kitchenette spaces that were first built in 1994. However, Dodge said that doesn’t align with what the district is hearing from students, who have expressed a serious interest in pursuing careers in professional kitchens and could stand to benefit from a set-up that better mirrors what that would be like.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The current culinary arts classroom for Baldwin City school district students is a more traditional “home ec” space, but renovations call for creating a lab that looks more like a professional kitchen.

Another pathway, “Comprehensive Agriculture,” is in its first year but is already showing signs of high popularity, Dodge said. There’s no dedicated agriculture sciences classroom and lab space, though, which would both be added if the bond proposal is approved. Dodge said students are currently working out of a junior high classroom not designed to sustain a program like this one in the long run.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

A classroom at Baldwin Junior High currently houses the budding Comprehensive Agriculture program, but the bond proposal calls for a larger classroom and lab space.

Another course, health science, has the highest enrollment by far — more than 200 students both in the fall and spring semesters — and is the last pathway course in line for a classroom space upgrade. Currently targeted at students interested in going into nursing, Dodge said the district wants to expand the program to include sports medicine as well.

All told, Dodge said the district would be dedicating a majority of the bond funding, around $11.8 million, just to Career and Technical Education classrooms — more than double the investment for similar projects in last year’s proposal.

“What was different in the last time around where it was just over $5 million for (Career and Technical Education) in one classroom with three lab spaces is being expanded to four classrooms, four lab spaces using a combination of remodeling and new construction to do so, allowing our bus loop to stay intact,” Dodge said.

The building that would house those enhanced classroom spaces is connected to the high school by a breezeway, but it’s not enclosed. Students currently have to exit the high school building, walk outside for a moment and then be buzzed in to a separate building to get to their pathway classes.

That’s where the safety improvements in the bond proposal come into play. Dodge said the district would plan to enclose the breezeway, which would simultaneously mitigate any vehicle- or weather-related hazards and remove the need for a secure access point on either side.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

A view from the breezeway between Baldwin High School and the adjacent building housing Career and Technical Education classrooms, which the school district intends to enclose.

Another safety concern that hasn’t gone away since last year has to do with the dismissal process, which typically involves bus riders, walkers and car riders all converging at the bus loop outside of the junior high entrance. Dodge said the district plans to build a new road between the junior high building and the adjacent parking area connecting to nearby Quail Street that will function only as a bus drive, with a drop-off and pick-up loop near the breezeway.

Dodge also described a serious need for more parking. Guests at school events often are forced to park along the streets bordering campus, and students are parked in grass, along the fire lane or in other areas not designated for parking even on normal school days. The bond proposal calls for adding 200 parking spaces in a new lot, which would be connected to campus by a new drive between Sixth and Eisenhower streets.

Dodge said the school district is aiming to be especially deliberate about gauging community feedback this time around, which is why it’s hosting a series of “community conversations” providing citizens a chance to ask questions. Two of those have already taken place, with two more scheduled through April. The next one will take place Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. in the sanctuary at Baldwin First United Methodist Church, 704 Eighth St., and the last one is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30 from 7-8 p.m. in the junior high Performing Arts Center, 415 Eisenhower St.

More information about the bond proposal is available at


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