Voters in Hazelwood signaled their support for local schools when they approved Proposition H. Seventy-five percent of them sent plans for a wide range of upgrades and renovations to the head of class on election day. The measure provides for a $120 million bond issue that would fund the work without a tax-rate increase.
"Work can begin as early as the spring," said Diana Gulotta, Assistant Superintendant of Communications for the Hazelwood School District. "It depends on where they [the schools] are on the timeline, how much work we can do while school is in, and what has to be done during the summer when school is out. "
Gulotta added that the goal is to have $60 million of the bonds sold by the end of 2010.
Proposition H marks the final part of "Hazelwood 1st," a three-phase facility upgrades plan. It will address the need to update library media centers at Hazelwood West and Hazelwood East high schools. The upgrades will ensure the libraries meet the needs of the students through technology and access to research materials to support academic success.
Other updates under Proposition H include bringing buildings up to code through life, health and safety improvements including:
- improving wiring for advanced technology
- updating heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
- modernizing science labs and classrooms
- replacing deteriorating exterior walls and hazardous floor tiles
- installing elevators.
Now that the bond issue has passed, the next step is to develop a plan and timeline for the upgrades and renovations promised to the community. Ashley Johnson graduated from Hazelwood West in 2002 and is one of the taxpayers who voted for Proposition H.
"I can remember when new technology was added to the library when I attended West," she said. "We felt like we were a step ahead of everyone else because of the tools we had and for that reason I feel the proposition is very important to keep student's morale high and encourage a sense-of-self pride in their school."
During 2008-09 school year, Hazelwood Central High School opened the doors on a brand new library taxpayers approved during Phase II of Hazelwood 1st. Johnson's sister Erika Johnson graduated from Hazelwood Central in 2009. She recalls the library renovation. Although at times she felt the construction was inconvenient, she said in the end the library was worth it.
"We had a proper library that looked and felt like a library," Erica Johnson said. "Even students who had never used the library before it was renovated, began using it because it was new and you wanted to be a part of something that was so positive in the school."
Although it is too early to give exact plans for the West and East libraries, Gulotta said the goal is to have the school libraries be comparable to the one at Central, which features:
- 16,000 square feet
- an office
- 2 storage rooms
- a work room
- professional librarian's space. There is
- reference area
- circulation desk and work counter
- seating for two full classes at a time
- expanded collections
- instructional program.
"We want a look of comparability across all three high schools," Gulotta said. "Now we haven't sat down and looked at any architectual plans yet because we're a little early in this game."
Gulotta said the original plan developed in 2003 included creation of a fourth high school.
"When we reconvened and looked at the numbers we realized that we don't need that," she said. "There's room for growth and there's the financial piece. Had we gotten into adding another high school, we would may not have been able to do this last phase without a tax increase."
Phase III of Hazelwood 1st is the latest in a dynamic decade for the district. A 2004 tax increase provided funds to hire more staff at Hazelwood middle schools. Redistricting in 2007-08 meant renaming many schools and changing the boundary lines that determine where students attend class.
There were some rough spots during the redistricting process. In fact, the October and November 2007 school board meetings included heated discussions about the plans and concern from parents.
The Johnsons' mother Amanda remembers that period all too well. All three of her children attended and graduated from Hazelwood schools. She wasn't prepared for the issues that arised when students were moved around, including the rivalries between students that were moved to Hazelwood Central from Hazelwood East.
"Hazelwood gets a bad rap in the public," she said. "I never have a problem with expansion when it benefits the students and their education. These are good schools and I think that at that time what really bothered me was taking all of those students from Hazelwood East High School and shifting them over to Hazelwood Central because there were a lot of behavioral problems associated with the students clashing."
Gulotta recalled other hiccups.
"We redistricted the entire school district and it's hard to do that without having some issues when that goes into effect," Gulotta said. "We had a few issues with our phones, we had some bussing issues and we worked through all that and in the end improving the facilities is a positive for students."
Background on Hazelwood 1st
2003 - More than 1,000 Hazelwood School District community members took part in a public engagement campaign. Staff members and residents attended meetings, studied issues facing the school district, collaborated and made recommendations for a long-range facilities plan.
2004 - Voters approved a bond initiative and tax levy. The plan included construction of four new middle schools and implementation of full-day kindergarten in all 20 elementary schools.
2007 - Four new middle schools opened and upgrades were made to the two existing middle schools. Hazelwood Northwest Middle School got a new media center and renovated science rooms, lighting and ceiling renovations to the upstairs classrooms and cafeteria. Classroom trailers were removed. The district added a new media center and renovated science, art and foreign language classrooms to Hazelwood East Middle School, renovated the main office and removed the classroom trailers. In August, kindergarten went to a full day at all 20 elementary schools.
Once Phase I projects were complete, the Hazelwood 1st group reconvened to evaluate Phase II and recommended the Board of Education place a $65 million bond initiative on the ballot.
2006 - Voters approved the initiative. Plans included building a new library at Central High School and upgrades to the heating and air conditioning system at West High School. The administration building was renamed The HSD Learning Center and got an addition to house the Hazelwood Central Early Childhood and GALACTIC gifted programs.
2006-2009 - Renovations were made at the following elementary schools: Armstrong, Barrington, Brown, Cold Water, Garrett, Grannemann, Jamestown, Jana, Jury, Keeven, Lawson, Lusher, McCurdy, McNair, Russell, Townsend, Twillman and Walker. Libraries were constructed or renovated. To ensure school safety, school offices were expanded and relocated to the front of the building to better supervise traffic. To better serve children when they are sick, improvements were made to the nurse's clinics. Many schools received new classrooms while others received classroom upgrades.
2010- Proposition H was approved.
HAZELWOOD SCHOOL-PROPOSITION H
|(Vote for ) 1 (WITH 63 OF 63 COUNTED)
|YES . . . . . . . . . . . . 31,497 75.82 |
|NO. . . . . . . . . . . . . 10,043 24.18|
|Bonds-Capital Improvements, 57.15 percent of votes needed|
Source: Missouri Secretary of State