MS Task Force wraps up public meetings

Over the past few weeks, the South Tama County Community Facilities Task Force hosted several public input meetings to share information and get community feedback on a possible solution to the district’s space and capacity needs.

The community-driven task force has been working to find an alternative solution to the needs at STC Middle School for the past year. In March 2020, a majority of voters supported a plan to build a new middle school, but the measure fell short of the 60 percent needed to pass. The task force is consulting with INVISION and Estes Construction to evaluate alternative plans, and has also been meeting with staff and students.

A recent community-wide survey indicated broad consensus that the needs at the middle school should be addressed soon. The building is 106 years old and is considered one of the oldest–if not the oldest–functioning middle schools in the state. The lifespan of a typical middle school is 70 years.

The community-led task force has reviewed several options and has narrowed them down to two potential plans.

The Community Reuse option would involve renovating the vacant Iowa Juvenile Home, with an addition to right-size the school. It would leverage up to $750,000 in state funds to create a long-term use for the property.

The estimated cost of this option would be $25 million. There would be some concern about teacher travel time between sites, which could lead to a loss of 400 staff hours per school year.

If this option were approved, property taxes would see a slight decrease, lowering the school’s property tax levy to $1.87 down from $2.70. The decrease is possible due to the school district paying off its previous general obligation bond for the elementary building.

The More Together option would create a middle school addition to the STC High School campus, at a cost of $31 million. It would lead to a unified campus and expand the district’s ability to host larger events and tournaments. This option would also result in renovated commons and lab spaces for high school students.

Although the More Together option is estimated more in cost, the offset of the elementary bonds being paid off next spring would keep the school’s property tax levy unchanged at $2.70.

If the district moves ahead with neither of the options, property taxes would decrease even further, though a solution to the district’s 106-year old middle school would be left unmet.

The community-led task force will next meet Monday, December 6, to review the options and potentially decide on making a recommendation to the Board of Education. District residents who wish to provide feedback in the meantime can do so by visiting http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FXTV953.

A video of one of the public input meetings is available at https://vimeo.com/646628776. For more information on the options under consideration and the work of the task force, visit www.southtamabond.org.