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Storm Lake School District bond issue project

The proposal to build a new early childhood center in the Storm Lake (Iowa) School District goes before voters Tuesday. The above is an artist's rendering.

STORM LAKE, Iowa -- Voters in the Storm Lake School District will decide next month if property taxes will be raised to build an early childhood center.

The $29 million measure will go before voters on Dec. 11. Storm Lake is a rare place in Northwest Iowa with a growing public school enrollment, and district officials say the need for facilities. The district is seeking to build a new school to hold students in pre-kindergarten through first grade.

If passed, the $29 million bond issue is estimated to increase the property taxes by $148.15 per year on a property with an assessed value of $100,000. Under Iowa law, school referendums calling for an increase in property taxes must receive a "super majority" of at least 60 percent to pass.

The bonds would be paid back over 20 years.

In a summary on the Storm Lake School District website, it says "we must find new ways to meet the demands of more students attending our schools," since both elementary and middle school levels will have 150 students "over capacity."

Thee are 918 students attending elementary school, which is a 22 percent increase from the 2009-10 school year. One fourth grade class has 40 students this fall, or about double the national average of 22, the district piece says.

District officials say the use of portable classrooms is not ideal, so a new building is needed.

The district's official Twitter account shared a photo of pupils in a classroom, with the tweet, "As our community members are well aware, Storm Lake is growing! While this is a good thing, it has led to capacity challenges in our buildings. We invite you to learn more about these needs and how the board has looked to address them."

An architect, the DLR Group, headquartered in Chicago, has prepared plans. Building a new early childhood center would be a multi-phase project.

The district’s long-term plan is to have prekindergarten through first grade in the Early Childhood Center, second through fifth grade at the elementary school and sixth through eighth grade at the middle school.

Ten sites had been considered for the school. The final selection is near the intersection of 90th Avenue and West Milwaukee Avenue, just north of Hope Evangelical Free Church.

For the grades below high school, the district has a middle school building at 1811 Hyland Drive, elementary at 1810 Hyland Drive, and the East Early Childhood Center at 930 E. Fifth St. The latter center could be sold, if the two-phase project is done.

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County and education reporter

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