(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Tuesday, the fate of the St. Joseph School District lies in the hands of voters.
On the April 6th ballot, sits a $107 million school bond issue detailing the district's attempt to right-sizing after citing a steady drop in students. Within the existing three high schools, the district announced there's 975 empty seats. To consolidate, the bond would turn the district into a two high school system.
While the bond has been divisive within the city, Buchanan County Clerk said voter turnout isn't anticipated to reach more than 20%.
Mary Baack-Garvey, Buchanan County Clerk said, "The school bond issue and the school board might bring it to 20%, but it's been really quiet these last six weeks of voting. I really did think it would have increased, not only in registration, but people getting out to vote. So, we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Polls stay open from 6 a.m. - 7 p.m.
If the bond passes, SJSD would purchase the American Family building in East St. Joseph and transform it into a 21st century high school and keep Central High School. The district released a 3D rendering of what the modern high school would look like if passed. Benton and Lafayette High Schools would be reconfigured into middle schools.
The district released a new boundary draft to go along with the proposed two high school system. According to the updated boundary map, generally students living in the southend would attend Central and students in the northern part would go to the new high school.
SJSD Superintendent, Dr. Doug Van Zyl said administrators and the Board of Education understand the emotional challenges that come with the bond, but he hopes voters will focus on facts rather than feelings.
"Make it a non-emotional vote because this really is about, in our opinion as a school district and I believe the opinion of the board, how do we move forward? How do we do something as a district that's beneficial to our staff, students and our community by being efficient and effective with the tax dollars that we have," said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent.
The district said nearly 75% of the bond funds would go towards the new school. The rest of the money is set to put in air conditioning in the three existing high schools as well as renovating Central and it's athletic facilities.
Voting yes on the bond issue does result in a tax increase. The market value of a home worth $50,000 would be taxed about $28 a year. A home valued at $100,000 would be taxed $56 a year.
If the school bond issue does pass, the district changes will begin to take effect in two years. If the bond issue fails, the Board of Education said SJSD will still likely move towards a two high school model, but with Central and Lafayette staying intact. According to Board members, Benton would still turn into a middle schools based on student capacity alone.
To pass, the bond need to reach 57%.
Along with the bond issue are three Board of Election seats up for grabs. Eight candidates are in the running with one write in candidate. The three candidates with the most votes will wina three-year term on the board.