Q: Why did the board propose to build an elementary school in Ireton?

A: While each board member may have arrived at his decision differently, a number of overarching themes led to those decisions:

1. Since West Sioux consolidated in the late 1950s, the board has made efforts to make the entire district inclusive of the communities and rural areas; we want all members to feel they are part of the West Sioux School District. Because of this belief, the board believes that the district should maintain a building in Ireton:

• The West Sioux School District’s two largest towns are Hawarden and Ireton, and having a school in each supports those communities and helps foster investment in the school system. Looking at the consolidated districts in our area, districts with multiple buildings often locate them across the district: George & Little Rock, Boyden & Hull, Alton & Orange City, Paullina & Primghar. Of course, that’s not the only model, but it is one that can and does work.

• The current MS/HS is located on the western edge of the district. Locating the elementary in Ireton provides more geographical balance.

2. Building in Hawarden presented logistical concerns. The architect indicated the minimum amount of space needed for a school meeting our needs would be 5 acres. Even at 5 acres, we may need to look at a 2-story building and limited playground space. As we looked at our current spaces in Hawarden, nothing seemed to fit the bill:

• Land south of the MS/HS: Approximately 3 acres, so significantly too small.

• Land north of the MS/HS: Approximately 5 acres, but would result in additional expenses from moving the small baseball diamonds and determining a new driveway for the shop area.   

• Current site of Hawarden Elementary: Approximately 4 acres, so still too small.

3. The other issue with building on our current Hawarden properties is that we significantly limit ourselves for future expansion. For instance, the areas to the north and south of the MS/HS are being considered in our longterm plans for expanding fine arts and career/technical education. Likewise, building on the same spot as the current elementary means no opportunity for expansion in the future. The board wants to be proactive and look toward the future, rather than just being reactive as situations arise.

4. The board looked for efficiencies in how we planned elementary space; combining the elementary into a single building structure helps achieve efficiencies in teachers, counselors, kitchen staff and processes, custodial staff, and utilities. While we could achieve these same efficiencies at an elementary school in Hawarden, the other factors – wanting to keep a presence across the district, facing logistical issues in Hawarden, and planning for future growth – led us to propose an elementary school building in Ireton.

Finally, an aspect of the proposed plans that is on people’s minds is busing.  The board definitely considered the issue of busing when proposing this location. As you know, we already bus students across the district: PK-1 to Ireton, and 2-12 to Hawarden. There are concerns about the additional busing of Hawarden students to Ireton for grades 2-5. While we understand some of the uneasiness of transporting additional students to Ireton, buses have proven to be one of the safest vehicles for transportation, and our drivers take their roles seriously. The additional stops being planned would make our students’ transitions to and from safer as well.

The board recognizes that our proposed location in Ireton is not necessarily a perfect solution. Rarely does a perfect solution exist; rather, we choose a solution that meets most of our prioritized needs. We believe the current proposal is a solution that builds 21st-century learning spaces for our children, achieves greater efficiencies in building maintenance and support, keeps our options open for the future, and fosters the best possible learning environment for our students.

Q: What Happens if the Bond Election Fails?

A: Our goal as a school board has been to present the district’s voters with what we believe is the best solution. We conducted surveys, led building walk-throughs, and hosted drawing sessions for the community to participate in and provide their ideas. The board took the feedback from these events and spent considerable time discussing plans and researching ideas for our elementary school. Four cornerstones of these discussions guided the board’s thought process:

1. We need to do what is best for our students

2. We need to look at what is best for the whole district

3. We need to find efficiencies in how the building operates

4. We need to work within our financial bond capacity

If the bond were not to pass on March 1, the guiding principles and information that steered the board to propose this solution of building in Ireton would still be present. That same information will be recognized and carry significant weight if a second bond election is needed.

Q: What construction projects will the bond issue fund?

A: The bond will fund building, furnishing, and equipping a new elementary building and related site improvements.

Q: How much is the bond referendum?

A: The bond referendum is $15,685,000.

Q: Why are you pursuing this now?

A: In December of 2019, the West Sioux Board of Directors reviewed the condition of the district facilities, specifically the three educational buildings. They hired FEH, an architectural firm, to assist in this process and perform this assessment. Once this was complete, we discussed the best way to proceed with updating our facilities. From these discussions, it was apparent that renovations and updates would be expensive. At this point, the board began discussing whether it would be more advantageous in the long run to build a new building rather than trying to update the two existing elementary schools. After conducting surveys with the staff and community, hosting tours, holding drawing sessions with the community, and participating in numerous work sessions, the board concluded that the best option would be to build a PK – 5 building in Ireton.

Q: What were the overarching principles that guided the Board’s decision?

A: The board explored numerous scenarios for building plans. In these discussions, three main questions always guided the conversations:

  1. What is the best we can do for our students?
  2. No matter what we do, can we find efficiencies when we build?
  3. How do we maintain an effective and vibrant school district spread across several towns?
Q: Can you explain more about the process the board used to determine the need for this project?

A: Below is a timeline of surveys, tours, drawing sessions, and board sessions about the project.  The board did not make any recommendation hastily or without community input; instead, the board gathered different perspectives and performed their due diligence:

December 2, 2019:  Board Work Session to discuss short- and long-term planning

February 20, 2020: Board Meeting to interview architectural firms to perform a review of buildings

September 2020: West Sioux Employees Building Surveys

September 30, 2020: Board Work Session to Review Surveys

October 21, 2020: Interviews with Faculty and Staff

November 30, 2020: Board Work Session meeting with FEH (architectural firm)

March - May 5, 2021: Community Survey (Paper and Electronic)

April 8, 2021: Board Work Session meeting with FEH

May 5, 2021: Board Work Session meeting with FEH

May 25, 2021: Board Work Session Tour of Three Buildings

June 29 & 30, 2021: Spark Drawing Session with FEH in the Junior High Commons

July 29, 2021: Board Work Session - Building Options Discussion

August 16, 2021: Board Work Session - Building Options Discussion

September 10, 2021: Building Discussion - Building Options Discussion

November 1, 2021: Building Discussion - Building Options Discussion

November 16, 2021: Building Discussion - Building Options Discussion

December 6, 2021: Consider Building Options

January 11, 2022: Board Secretary accepts signed petitions from qualified residents calling for an election

January 12, 2022: Board passes a resolution calling for an election on a $15,685,000 bond to build a new elementary school in Ireton

Q: If the bond referendum passes, how much will property taxes increase?

A: Please see the Summary Tax Impact worksheet as this breaks down the cost based on the category of property. On this worksheet, please find your category of property, such as residential, commercial, ag land, or multi-residential, and then your approximate assessed value to determine an estimated rate change per year. The district believes that the overall levy rate increase will be no more than $2.60/$1,000 of taxable valuation. We can work with our other levies and decrease them for the short term to offset the higher debt service levy while we allow our one-cent sales tax to regenerate and then use some of those dollars to offset the levy rate to maintain it at no more than an increase of $2.60.

Q: What happens if the construction bids for the project come back higher than $18 million?

A: The Board of Education has several options available if bids come back higher than expected. One option is to direct the architects and engineers to review and critically analyze the construction plans to discover ways to make more economical options without sacrificing quality. A second option is to locate other funding sources such as grants and donations. A third option is to borrow against future earnings on the one-cent sales tax dollars.

Q: Who can vote on the referendum?

A: Anyone who lives in the West Sioux School District is eighteen years of age, and is registered to vote can cast a ballot on March 1. A person who is not registered to vote can register at their polling location the same day by providing proof of age and residence.

Q: Where are the polling locations, and what times are they open?

Polling locations are:

Hawarden Community Center located at -- 1150 Central Avenue, Hawarden, IA

Ireton City Council Chambers located at – 502 4th Street, Ireton IA

The polls will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM at both locations on March 1st.

Q: I will not be around on March 1st, can I still vote?

A: If you are unable to vote in person on March 1, you can vote early by using an absentee ballot. You can request a ballot via mail by completing an absentee ballot request form available at the auditor’s office.  The deadline to request a ballot is February 14.  Another option is to vote early at the courthouse in Orange City.  The first day to vote at the courthouse is February 9 and the last day is February 28.

Absentee ballots need to arrive at the courthouse by 8:00 PM on March 1st. A postmark ballot before that time which arrives at the courthouse after 8:00 PM on March 1st will not be counted.  These ballots can also be dropped off at the two polling places.

Q: What is needed for the referendum to pass?

A: General Obligation Bond referendums need 60% plus one vote of the votes cast to be “yes” in order to pass. In recent years, multiple school bond referendums have been decided by fewer than three votes. This demonstrates that everyone’s opinion and vote is important!

Q: Can a school use bond money to give teachers or staff a raise or pay employment-related expenses?

A: No, these are two separate pots of money, and the bond proceeds will go only towards the building project. Teacher salaries are paid from the General Fund. The fund that the bond money goes into can only be used for infrastructure improvement.

Q: Will construction interfere with student learning?

A: No. Since we are looking at a new site away from both of our existing elementary buildings, we do not anticipate any disruption in the learning environment.

Q: Will upgrades save us money?

A: We are looking at the possibility of geothermal heating which over the long term will save the district money in heating costs.  There will be other efficiencies in the heating and cooling systems that could also help reduce overall utility costs.

Q: What is the proposed construction timeline if the bond referendum passes?

A: That is yet to be determined.  When the bond issue passes, we will immediately begin developing construction plans.  These construction plans will go out to bidders in early fall for the bids; we would hope to begin construction in late fall or the following spring. We anticipate construction will take 18 to 24 months.

Q. What about the daycare?  Will this building include a daycare?

A: Our primary focus is on educating Preschool through 12th-grade students at the highest possible level. The board understands the need for high-quality daycare options and wants to continue to be a good neighbor. We will continue monitoring the situation and make decisions on what is in the school district's best interest.  Currently, there are plans to include the Ireton Daycare as part of the project as a bid alternate.

Q: What do our current enrollment numbers say about the future of the school district?

A: Although in the last several years' enrollment has decreased from the prior year, we still have an upward trend over the past 20 years.  From 2002 to today, we have had an increase of over 50 students.  Furthermore, our enrollment data mirrors that of our town populations. Currently, 139 enrolled students have Ireton addresses, which is approximately 18% of the student body. That reflects the town populations, as Ireton typically has about 17-19% of the 2 towns’ total populations.   For example, in 1960 Ireton’s population was 510 compared to Hawarden’s at 2,544; in 2020, the populations were 590 for Ireton and 2,700 for Hawarden.

Q: I don’t have any students in school, so why should I support this referendum?

A: Everyone at some point has helped support a school that they themselves did not have children attend.  It is likely that someone who did not have children in school supported you when you were in school.  This concept is fundamental to democracy.  Small communities need strong schools, and strong schools help maintain strong property values.  Making the repairs and adding space now would mean taking advantage of favorable interest rates and a debt-free district.  If we prolong the process, that only means additional costs and higher taxes down the road.

Q: Will this require more buses and drivers?

A: We believe we will not need to buy any new buses outside of our current plan to purchase a new bus every other year.  The change in this would be that we would not take a bus out of service when we do purchase a new bus and move some buses from routes to shuttles.  We will likely need to hire one or two shuttle drivers.

Q: How will busing change?

A: We are still working on the details there.  We believe we will add additional stops in Hawarden so students do not have to cross a highway. We are also looking at another central location to be a pick-up and drop-off for elementary students.

Q: Why was turf put on the football field when a new school was needed?

A: A few years ago, the board carefully considered options for the football field, such as seeding it for a third time, placing new sod on the field, building an entirely separate facility for soccer,  and installing turf. Our field gets considerable use between football, track (people walking across during meets and practice), and soccer. We also needed to upgrade our sprinkler system as it was not working correctly plus fix drainage issues on the field itself and the north end of the area. The cost of sodding and fixing the sprinkler system was estimated by a professional to be around $200,000. Furthermore, an engineering firm thought fixing the drainage issues would cost between $75,000 and $100,000.  Our upkeep costs for a grass field (labor, fertilizer, water, and paint) were approximately $40,000 per year. When comparing all those factors, the costs between grass and turf were quite comparable, especially since the turf will last between 13 and 16 years.  A final benefit from the turf is that postponing games due to field conditions is a thing of the past. Before the new field, each year one or two lower-level football games or soccer games would be rescheduled or canceled because of poor field conditions; the turf has eliminated this.

Q: When the bond passes, what is the board planning on doing with the old buildings?

A: The board has discussed options about what to do with each of the buildings. In Ireton, the plan is to exchange the land where we have our current structure for the property where the new facility will go. We will work with the City of Ireton on this exchange. We are still looking at possibilities with the Hawarden Elementary building. We will be reaching out to the City of Hawarden and the Economic Development Director to continue gathering ideas. The board has not made a final decision but is working on options of what would be in the best interest of the district and the communities we serve.