On April 4, the Independence School District will go to the voters for approval of a proposed bond issue that would be used to build a new elementary school and renovate all three high schools, specifically adding needed space to support the career academy classes among other improvements. The bond issue is a no-tax bond, meaning there is no tax increase for voters should they approve this measure. It needs approval of four-sevenths of the voters to pass.

The new elementary school is needed to accommodate projected growth. The Cassel Park location is well suited for the campus, as the areas around Korte and Three Trails elementary schools have seen the greatest growth recently in school-aged population. The new school would also give the district a new home for the K-5 English Language Learner program. Currently, this program is housed at Nowlin Middle School, and the new space would allow the district to keep these students with like-age children.

At the high schools, the needs of each campus vary, but each location will see space specifically designed and focused in support of the career academy programs, along with other improvements. All three schools will have space for culinary classes, with Van Horn the location for the district’s capstone course for culinary arts, serving students from all three high schools. Each school will also receive updated space for physical therapy and athletic training, also part of the academy programs, and will see remodeled science classrooms across the high schools. CISCO networking classrooms for the academy’s IT program will be added at William Chrisman along with two other classrooms for future growth. Truman also will gain additional classrooms, allowing it to eliminate the mobile classrooms currently in use for math classes.

Creating needed space for the delivery of academy programs is part of the big picture for the future of Independence – having a well-trained workforce that is prepared for the jobs of the future is a critical part of economic development efforts in any community. The district’s innovative approach is taking the conversation beyond the classroom, collaborating with city government and local businesses and creating in Independence an opportunity to drive future economic growth. Ultimately, we all benefit from an improved local economy, and programs such as the academies should help in achieving Mayor Eileen Weir’s stated goal of raising the city’s median wage to $50,000 by 2020.

The comprehensive plans outlined for the bond issue are well-aligned with the district’s vision, support future growth and address identified needs for facility updates and additions. The plans will eliminate all mobile classrooms currently used across the district, and they address other basic issues like safety and security and overcrowding in the lunchroom at Truman. It also improves the appearance of our high school facilities, in keeping with work that is just beginning with the city of Independence and other business leaders to improve the community’s “curb appeal.”

We applaud Independence School District for its commitment to the academy program, graduating students well prepared to enter the workforce or continue their academic careers in college. And we are also pleased that it can manage needed improvements across the district without asking voters for a tax increase. It’s a fiscally responsible approach and a plan that aligns with the needs of the community. The no-tax bond increase merits a “yes” vote on April 4.