HOWARD – With just one month until the November 5 general election, East Knox Local Schools is ramping up campaign efforts for its building levy.
District residents will vote next month on whether or not they support a 37-year, $19 million levy that would fund the construction of a new junior/senior high school, while keeping the 1994 addition. The oldest section of the current building was built in 1939 and has received six rounds of major renovations since.
The district announced in a Facebook post Sunday night that it will offer a public tour of the building on Saturday at 11 a.m. Superintendent Steve Larcomb will guide the tour, which he said will last approximately 30 minutes. Those who attend will be able to look around the school “as long as you want” after the tour ends, the post said.
“We want people to have the opportunity to see it for themselves, why the school board feels it’s necessary to go to them for money to tear down the older additions and build new classrooms in its place,” Larcomb said.
East Knox Local Schools has conducted numerous building tours since last fall, when the school board contracted with an architectural firm to host community engagement sessions regarding the construction of a new building.
Larcomb said most tour participants have noticed the building’s electrical issues, its antiquated plumbing system and the deteriorating portions of the roof. East Knox is also the only junior/senior high school in Knox County without air conditioning, Larcomb said.
“I’ve yet to have anybody take the tour and come away from it saying, ‘You don’t need [a new school],’” Larcomb said.
If passed, the 3.3-mill levy would cost district residents an estimated $9.63 per month (or $115.50 per year), per $100,000 home. Those funds would be used to demolish and replace the junior/senior high school, with the exception of the 1994 addition (which contains the gym, cafeteria, and several offices and classrooms).
After a year of board discussions and community engagement sessions, the East Knox Board of Education decided this spring to place a levy on the November ballot. The board had considered waiting until November 2020, but “unanimously, we felt we can’t wait any longer,” Larcomb said. “Something has to be done.”
By building a new school, board president Dustin Buckingham said the district will save money long-term and provide a better learning environment for students.
“I think this is a really great value for our community. You’re looking at $10 a month for a $100,000 home, and that takes care of our facilities issues for probably a generation, and this community won’t continue to have to deal with those things,” Buckingham said at the July board meeting.
“It’s also going to save us a lot of maintenance costs that would be coming up in the future. So I just think it’s a great service to the community, a great opportunity that we can take advantage of.”
The board voted in July to place the levy on the November ballot, and since then, the district’s levy committee has sprung into action. Larcomb said the committee has gone door-to-door this fall, asking residents to consider voting ‘Yes.’ Every household in the district will receive a letter from the school board by the end of this week, Larcomb said, explaining why the district is asking for money.
If the levy passes, construction would take approximately two years, Larcomb said. Junior/senior high classes would be conducted in modular units during that time.
Along with building a new junior/senior high school, East Knox would also replace portions of the roof (above the cafeteria and administrative offices) and install a new HVAC unit in the 1994 addition. Electric and plumbing concerns would also be addressed.
The VoAg building would be moved to the east side of the new high school under the district’s plan. The elementary building, just a decade old, would remain untouched.
One month out, Larcomb seemed optimistic that the district will receive support for the levy come election day. While the old junior/senior high school is considered a community relic, having served generations of East Knox graduates, Larcomb said its needs are self-evident.
“We’re getting lots of positive comments. We’re very hopeful, we’re very encouraged with what we’re hearing from people,” Larcomb said. “It needs to be done.”