Littleton Public Schools will kick off a long-term effort to rebuild many of the district's buildings after voters approved Ballot Issue 4A, a $298 million bond.
The measure was passing by a wide margin, with 55.5 percent of the vote and nearly 45,000 votes counted, according to preliminary results released by the county at 10 a.m. on Nov. 7.
"The voters have stepped up," said LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert. "The community realized we needed to do something significant to get ahead of the game on school construction."
District officials say the bond will help them better prepare students for life after school and begin replacing the district's aging buildings.
The measure is the largest LPS has ever asked for, and will increase property taxes in the district by $29 to $49 per $100,000 of actual home value per year. That means a resident with a home worth $500,000 could see an increase of $145 to $245 a year.
In return, district officials say, students will receive a laundry list of benefits: several elementary schools on the southeast side of the district in Centennial will be rebuilt or retooled, a new stadium would be built at Newton Middle School to ease pressure on Littleton Public Schools Stadium, and the district will outfit a career and technical education center where students could learn vocational skills.
"I think the most significant thing is that this will allow us to address a backlog of issues around access for people with disabilities," Ewert said. "We have kids, faculty, parents and grandparents who can't get around our buildings very easily, and now we can start fixing that."
Ewert said it is the beginning of a long-term effort to replace the district's buildings, which have an average age of 58 years.
More than half of the bond money will go toward projects to rebuild or revamp several schools.
"There's something in this for every school," said Littleton Board of Education President Jack Reutzel. "There are so many boilers to replace and roofs to fix."
Among the big projects, at roughly $75 million, will be to build a new, two-story school on the Newton Middle School campus at Arapahoe Road and Colorado Boulevard in Centennial while school is still in session at Newton. The district's current timeline anticipates beginning construction in 2020, with completion in the fall of 2021.
Newton's structural integrity is failing, Ewert said, and disability access issues mean that it can take a student on crutches or in a wheelchair 20 minutes to get from one side of the school to the other.
Another quarter of the bond money will go toward a systematic retooling of elementary schools on the district's southeastern side.
The time has come to build a new school on the site of the old Ames Elementary School near Dry Creek Road and Colorado Boulevard, one of two schools shuttered in 2008, Ewert said. The other closed school, Whitman Elementary, has since become the district's alternative high school.
Though Ames was closed in part due to paltry enrollment, that corner of the district has seen an influx of new families in recent years, Ewert said. Roughly 500 students in the old Ames “catchment” area are now bussed to Highland, Franklin and Lenski elementary schools.
As well as rebuilding Ames, Franklin Elementary near deKoevend Park will get a new building while school was still in session at the old building. Once the new building at Franklin is completed, Highland Elementary — which is less than a mile from Franklin — will be closed and its student body absorbed into Franklin.
District officials anticipate the Ames project will be complete by the fall of 2021, with Franklin's rebuild completed by the fall of 2022.
Highland will then absorb some of the programming at Ames, including preschool programs and possibly TLC Meals on Wheels, which currently uses Ames' kitchen.
Reutzel said the bond has implications for all of the district's residents, even those without kids.
"Voters understand the value of a well-regarded school district," Reutzel said. "It has positive impacts for property values too."
Passing a large bond that results in a tax increase is a hefty responsibility, Reutzel said.
"We don't take tax burdens lightly," Reutzel said. "We believe that we have developed a relationship with voters that they expect great things and we deliver. In return, we expect them to support us when it makes sense, and that was evident on election night."
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