April 19, 2021

Baxter School District preps for summer of building renovations

Improvements to the Baxter Community School will be coming in the summer.

After residents within the Baxter Community School District voted to approve a bond measure to provide funding to a $6 million school renovation project Dec. 11, 2018, many school officials, employees, parents and students can breath a sigh of relief. The project will allow improvements in many locations inside the building’s classrooms and out in the parking lot.

The vote passed 87.47 percent to 12.53 percent, according to the Jasper County Auditor’s Office. Of the 415 votes cast, 363 voter’s said “yes” to the bond, and 52 “no” votes were cast. The auditor’s office received 65 absentee ballots by the postmark deadline and included in the tally.

BCSD Superintendent Mickolyn Clapper said she and the other board members have been busy lately with all the preparation work before the renovations begin.

“We’ve had multiple meetings with the general contractor, and then with our architects. Story Construction is our manager, and they are kind of our reference point. And then FEH is our architecture firm,” Clapper said. “We’ve had tons conversations with blue prints and looking at finishes such as carpet and tile. Tweaking where classrooms are going to be.”

The bond will institute a slight levy rate increase but is estimated to have little change for taxpayers, since payments for the K-12 school’s last bond repayment ended in 2018. The bond will allow the school district the funding for the critical renovations.

After the school year is complete, building improvements will be seen in the school’s classrooms, laboratories within the science classrooms, a green screen classroom for multi-media production, special education classrooms and the principal and secretary’s office. The student parking lot will also be redesigned, allowing parking spots to be angled instead of straight to allow up to an additional 120 parking spaces behind the school.

“We’re also going to change the parking out front, as well,” Clapper said. “Instead of parallel parking, it’s going to be angle parking so we can get more spots. Most of the parking (work) will be out back.”

Last fall, Clapper spent a large amount of time campaigning around Baxter to inform school district residents what the bond will do and why they needed yes votes. She held “Coffee with Dr. Clapper” events with several local businesses and churches. She, along with the BCSD board, have also held two town hall meetings to educate community members on the renovations.

During those meetings, Clapper and the board went over the history of the building, the bond referendum, the bond’s tax impact and goals for the project and took questions from the 40 audience members. They emphasized the point that if a property is assessed to be $100,000, and goes up to the maximum levy rate at $4.05 (over their former rate at $3.60), the impact would be $19 per year on property taxes.

Now that the bond is approved, though, the focus continues to be the preparation for the renovation, which Clapper said is hoping to start at the beginning of July.

“The’ve been inside and done some things, like measuring and looking at pipes and heaters,” Clapper said. “These snow days are not making it easier, but the time line is hopefully, the month of June, they’ll be doing some behind the scenes stuff. Hopefully, around the beginning of July, they’ll start demolishing the old parts.”

Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or at oshawl@newtondailynews.com