Parkway schools need more room. So it wants voters to approve borrowing $110 million

MARYLAND HEIGHTS • McKelvey Elementary School is out of room.

Since last year, four classes have met in two trailers because the building is full. Inside, partitions split one classroom into two. Kids get help with reading in what was once a small conference room.

The Parkway School District has a plan ready to ease crowding at the school, should voters next month approve a $110 million bond issue. There’s no tax increase associated with the measure <a href="""">" target="_blank">known as Proposition S</a>, which comes four years after residents passed a $94 million bond issue. And there is no organized opposition to the proposal to be decided Nov. 6.

More than half of the money, about $61 million, would go to upgrading buildings, including roofing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, flooring, electrical work, pavement, doors and windows.

At McKelvey, Parkway’s largest elementary school, with nearly 700 students, more than $10 million would go toward creating more space. The district would convert a nearby building known as its instructional service center, the long-closed Robin Hill Elementary School, into 17 additional classrooms for kindergarten and first grade, as well as for special education, music and art.

And the trailers, which the district said are unpopular with teachers and parents, would be gone.

<a href=""""> target="_blank">School Guide: See scores and more for the Parkway School District</a>

The 2014 bond issue approved by Parkway voters did come with a tax increase — about $62 a year more for a house valued at $275,000.

The <a href="""">" target="_blank">biggest-ticket items then</a> are similar to what the district wants to do with the money from this bond issue. Nearly $18 million went for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing; an additional $10.5 million for pavement on parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, exterior ramps and exterior stairs; and nearly $7 million funded roofing projects, according to the district.

It also included nearly $2 million to partition classrooms to make room for more students, and almost $14 million in building additions at Parkway North High School in the Creve Coeur area.

Paul Tandy, a Parkway spokesman, said the average age of a school in the district is 50 years old, and that the cycle of such repairs has been happening for decades and will continue.

Parkway has more than 3.5 million square feet of school facilities, which the district says is roughly the size of operating three Busch Stadiums, with a replacement value of more than $875 million. It’s one of the area’s largest districts, with about 18,000 students.

“We can’t get behind,” Tandy said of maintenance issues. “We have to continue to invest in these buildings and keep them up to date.”

He said the district has shown five consecutive years of enrollment gains, roughly 100 students a year, after gradual declines in the preceding 15 years. Projections are showing a “re-greening” trend as older couples leave the district and younger families move into neighborhoods.

Repairs funded by the bond issue would be made each summer for the next four years, according to Parkway, and some of the projects include bolstering security.

Windows at the main entrances of each school already are coated with safety film installed as the result of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A bullet can pass through a window covered with the film, but the glass won’t shatter, making it more difficult to break through and giving more time to those inside to seek cover or escape.

Money from the bond issue would be used to add that film to other entrances and windows, to double the number of security cameras at each elementary school and to build double-entry security vestibules at all schools.

<a href="""">" target="_blank">See a list of proposed bond projects broken down by school.</a>

A 57 percent vote in favor of the proposition is needed for it to pass. The district says a tax increase would not be needed if the measure passes, because it has retired old bonds. The district could issue new ones and pay them off with revenue from its existing tax rate.

And as the cycle of needed repairs and upgrades continues, Tandy said, it’s likely voters will be faced with a similar proposal to fund more building fixes — probably in 2022 or 2023.