Thursday, Jan. 24 2013 5:42PM
Schools in LS could be affected by bond issue in Blue Springs
Board approved placing $20 million no tax bond on April ballot
By Toriano Porter
Blue Springs School District’s Board of Education’s decision to put a $20 million no tax bond issue on the April 2 ballot could possibly affect three schools in the district that have Lee’ Summit addresses.
Delta Woods Middle and Chapel Lakes and Voy Spears Elementary schools will benefit from a measure – if approved – that will send at least $14 million into Blue Springs schools to improve security and safety.
The BSSD’s Board of Education unanimously approved placing the no tax bond issue on the ballot Jan. 17 during a special meeting.
“It’s a sad thing that we have to do that, but I think it’s something that we need to do and something we need to move forward with,” BSSD Superintendent Peter Kinder said Jan. 18 during a presentation at the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce’s yearly breakfast.
More than half of the funds would be used to improve safety and security at district facilities, Kinder said, and most of the improvements will take place at the elementary and middle school levels.
“(The district’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee) met earlier (last week) and our board is going to put a $20 million no tax bond increase on the April ballot.” Kinder said. “A little over half of that will go to safety upgrades for our buildings.”
Other proposed improvements include renovated academic and instructional areas throughout the district.
Safety measures could include bullet proof glass and panic buttons.
The BSSD board also approved the hiring of six additional public safety officers, which would bring the number of fully-commissioned officers in the district’s department of public safety to 13.
BSSD has had a department of public safety since 2005 and is in the process of hiring three of the new officers now and three more will be hired in the summer said Tom Phillips, the districts’ executive director of public safety.
“We cover the schools that we don’t use city (school) resource officers for,” said Phillips, the former Jackson County Sheriff. “We currently have two officers from the Blue Springs Police Department that cover the two high schools, and then we have two other (BSPD) officers that cover Moreland Ridge and Brittany Hill (middle schools). We have public safety officers for the school district assigned to Delta Woods and Sunny Vale (middle schools), our freshmen center, and our alternative school at Valley View. We’re going to hire three new officers now and three this summer.”
December’s school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. expedited the $20 million bond issue, Phillips said.
“That was kind of the impetus that set it off,” he said. “These were future plans that we were looking at – not just structural security, but adding officers as time goes on – but I think the calls that I received as well as the superintendent’s office and board members, (citizens) wanted to see something now happening. One of the big things a lot of the parents were stressing was that they wanted to see more officers in the schools.”
BSSD is just one of three school districts in the Kansas City metropolitan area with its own public safety department along with Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission school districts in Kansas. In Lee’s Summit, the R-7 school district “does not have plans at this time to employ its own public safety department,” according to district officials.
“(We) are pleased with the current safety and security efforts involving school resource officers,” district officials said Jan 24 in an email statement to the Journal. “Each middle and high school has a full-time resource officer, who is a Lee’s Summit police officer. These highly skilled and specially trained officers are also available to assist with situations in elementary and other schools.
“In addition, district staff members work closely with law-enforcement officers and public-safety workers from the city of Lee’s Summit and other agencies on specific situations, crime prevention, training and development of the district’s emergency response procedures. Due to the district’s positive relationship with law-enforcement agencies in our community, there is no need to establish a school district police force.”
The R-7 district has spent the last month looking into upgrading and improving its security and safety policies in light of the Newtown tragedy.
“During the past month, R-7 schools staff members have continued to emphasize safety with discussions at both the district and school level taking place regarding how to improve and refine procedures and other security efforts,” district officials said in the email. “Law-enforcement officers as well as security consultants have been involved in these discussions and are providing feedback and assistance. One of the most recent enhancements in security was the implementation of buzzer-entry systems at all elementary schools.
“In looking at the proposed safety measures in the Blue Springs bond issue, Lee’s Summit R-7 has implemented or is working on implementation for a number of similar items (such as office entrances). Due to our district’s growth, it would be difficult to fund these in a bond issue without asking voters to approve a tax increase. To avoid a bond issue at this time, our district is discussing several safety measures, including some in the category of school entrance and flow design in relationship to offices, that would be funded through our regular capital budgeting process.”