HARRAH — Voters in the Harrah School District will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on a comprehensive bond issue that, if passed, would be the largest in the district's history.
The $36.1 million bond issue would provide funding for classroom additions to Virginia Smith Elementary School, the junior high school and the high school, as well as new security entries at all five of the district's campuses.
It would also provide money for a new football/soccer stadium with a synthetic playing surface, an indoor multipurpose athletics facility and an upgrade to the district auditorium. The bond is the product of a long evaluation from the district's long-range facility committee.
A second bond issue for $600,000 would pay for new buses.
“The committee worked almost a year in terms of determining the needs and what should be the priority,” school district Superintendent Dean Hughes said. “All of this really started with the security entries. Those ideas had been in the works before the most recent events (in Connecticut) but all of the improvements are critical to what the future holds for the district.”
Smith said the football stadium was built in the 1930s. If the bond is passed the facility will be moved to the high school campus because of space.
“It is very old and has become costly to maintain,” Smith said. “And there's not enough space at the current site to reconfigure it. We will still use it for little league games, but I think we're at a point where it's time to replace it.”
The committee also recommended closing the current middle school site and moving all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to what is now the junior high, while also moving ninth-graders to the high school campus.
In contrast to some metro-area districts, Harrah's enrollment is not expected to grow over the next eight to 10 years. The district currently serves about 2,300 students in all grades.
“We've lost some enrollment in the last couple of years, but we know that within about 97 to 98 percent accuracy we won't grow within the next 10 years. We're not seeing the movement out this way. But we do have needs and I think our patrons recognize the need for upgrades to facilities and other areas.”
Committee member Shelli Wilson said the proposed improvements are necessary to keep Harrah competitive with other districts, both in terms of technology and facilities.
“Our kids deserve updated technology and secure entrances at each school site,” Wilson said. “The additions at three school sites will give our kids the space needs for new science labs and classroom space. It's also time for a new football stadium and renovations to our auditorium. All of the projects will make the district stronger.”