School district's no-tax increase proposal would address projects throughout school facilities

A long-term facilities plan for the Palmyra School District would come to fruition if voters approve Proposition 2 on the Tuesday, April 2 ballot.

Palmyra School District Superintendent Kirt Malone said the no-tax bond proposal would allow the district to borrow $3,500,000 without changing the debt service levy of 68 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of real estate and personal property. The levy has been unchanged for several years, and Malone said the bond issue would extend the debt seven years to 2032. Two top-priorities from the long-range plan — renovations to the Palmyra Middle School kitchen and Palmyra High School Vo-Ag Building — would join projects like a new all-weather track, a wrestling room and playground water management if voters approve the measure.

“The school is very fortunate to be in a community that supports us and is proud of its school system,” he said. “Our responsibility is to maintain our facilities and our school buildings at a high level so that it's a reflection of our community.”

Malone said the school district has undergone several projects over the years, including demolition of the old high school and additions and renovation work for the middle school in the late-1990s. Community members passed a no-tax bond issue in 2007, allowing the addition of classrooms and a full-size gymnasium at Palmyra Elementary School and a complete renovation at Palmyra High School.

“The entire inside of the high school building was torn out and completely renovated during the summer, so when the students came back in August, they had a brand-new building,” he said.

In 2014, the district performed improvements at the Palmyra Elementary School, adding an Early Childhood Center/Pre-K Center, offices for Parents as Teachers, replacing windows; constructing a new bus barn on the high school campus and renovating the south wing of the middle school.

“Everything but the kitchen was renovated that year,” he said.

Malone said these projects brought the district to the end of the long-range plan made just more than 20 years ago, and Proposition 2 would address the final components of the plan with planned renovations for the Vo-Ag Building and the Hannibal Middle School kitchen.

Vo-Ag Building

Malone said the Vo-Ag Building is the district's last academic building in need of renovation. The structure was built in 1980, and it houses agriculture classes including Ag Power, horticulture and small engines. Over the years, water caused separation between the exterior bricks and interior blocks, causing severe rust to window and door fixtures and water damage to walls, doors and ceilings. In addition to replacing windows and restoring the building's structural integrity, plans call for enclosing an outdoor storage area for new class space and installing an interior door to ease access to the adjacent greenhouse.

Palmyra Middle School kitchen

The kitchen area at Palmyra Middle School is the last area of the district in need of renovation, dating back to the school's construction in 1961. Plans call for an addition to house an exterior cooler and freezer, freeing up food storage and office space. Flooring, heating and air conditioning systems, ceiling tiles, windows and doors would be replaced, and the entire kitchen would be expanded to allow employees to perform their tasks more efficiently.

Palmyra High School Track, security improvements

Malone said a community group got together to raise funds for a new track that about 15 years ago to replace the current six-lane limestone layout. The funding goal wasn't fully reached, but the plans for a new track remain. The current track often retains rainwater, and spring use is limited as the ground thaws. Malone said track members were running on the pavement in front of the high school Monday due to the track's conditions.

The proposal calls for an all-weather, eight-lane track with an all-weather field and new lighting — Malone said the facility would be ideal for youth sports teams and other community events.

Plans also call for security improvements at the high school like a new keyless entry system for main doorways and a monitoring system that alerts administrators if a door remains open.

New wrestling room

Palmyra High School's wrestling program is in its third year, but the athletes and coaches do not have a dedicated practice area. During their first year, they practiced in a large storage area; this year they are practicing in the middle school cafeteria. Malone said the proposal would include a new wrestling room at the south side of the weight room. The space could also serve fitness classes, and practices for cheerleading and the Panther Pride Pom Squad.

Elementary School playground

Proposition 2 also calls for improvements to the elementary school playground. Water collects from building and railroad track runoff, limiting playground time during wet weather and causing students to come back from play time with wet clothing and shoes. Wood chips surrounding the playground equipment are also deteriorating. To fix the water issue, a limestone drainage system and foundation would be installed underneath and around the existing equipment. Also, a rubberized play area will be installed in place of the wood chips.

Malone said he looks forward to the chance to make improvements that will impact for students and faculty members in each school building. If voters approve the measure in April, a majority of the work will be completed during the summer months.

“We're excited about the possibility of completing the prior long-range facilities plan that the district has in place and looking forward to the potential that the new facilities will have for our school and in our community,” he said.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com