COLUMBUS - When kindergarteners at Shell Creek Elementary split into two groups for the day, half the students are sent to a portable classroom outside the school's main building.

The makeshift facility has no running water or restrooms.

It serves as one of the examples why Vote Yes For Lakeview, a group of some 20 residents within Lakeview Community School District, believes approval of a $5.4 million bond issuance is the right move for the district.

The bonds, if approved in an April 12 public vote, would help pay for a proposed expansion project at the elementary.

Tuesday, Vote Yes For Lakeview held the first of four informational meetings, hoping to garner public support for the project.

The main issue with the district's current facilities, according to Vote Yes For Lakeview Co-chairman Don Blaser, is overcrowding.

Solving this problem, he said, is essential for creating the proper learning environment.

Space constraints at Shell Creek Elementary aren't hard to find.

Aside from the kindergarten-class portable, half of the split fifth grade is now located in a former special education room. This led to the resource room being divided into four different sections.

And the list goes on.

A main office area also serves as the staff lunch and break rooms and student sick room, mobile storage is used for extra equipment and furniture, sixth-grade and music classes are held in the basement and the gymnasium doubles as a cafeteria.

"We're at a point where we have to do something," said Liz Young, a district resident and reading coach for both Lakeview elementary schools. "We're just down to using every little inch."

The solution presented to about 25 attendees Tuesday night includes adding approximately 29,697 square feet to the existing 22,279-square-foot main level of the 41-year-old Shell Creek Elementary, 16786 280th St.

Under the plan, new wings would be added to the east and west, replacing area currently utilized as white-rock parking lots.

In the east wing, two classrooms each for kindergarten through second grades are proposed.

The overall goal is to move the school to a double-track system, where every grade has two separate rooms and sections. The rooms for third through sixth grades would be located in a remodeled portion of the current facility.

A 160-person cafeteria, a media center that doubles the size of the present library and offices are planned for the west wing. It was said Tuesday that public use of the new media center and cafeteria and present gymnasium will be allowed.

Structurally, brick has been selected for the outside of the building with architectural metal panels to add color, and dual-purpose overhangs would provide style and protection from inclement weather.

"You will not be able to see any of the current Behlen panels when this is done," Blaser said.

The project also includes a new roof for the school, excluding the gymnasium, and updated HVAC system.

Basement rooms would be used for storage.

As part of the expansion, acquisition of a small parcel of land to the east is necessary for wells, drainage and the playground.

The plan, Vote Yes For Lakeview Co-chairman Chad Anderson said, is also a benefit to Platte Center Elementary - where class sizes will also be reduced, thus creating a better student-to-teacher ratio.

Currently, 176 students attend Shell Creek Elementary, and 145, including many former Sunrise Elementary students, are enrolled at Platte Center Elementary.

Superintendent Russ Freeman said Shell Creek would likely add about 40 Platte Center students if the expansion occurs, which could change the current busing system.

Presently, two buses take former Sunrise students from the district's southeast area to Platte Center and one carries students to Shell Creek. A potential change, Freeman said, would have one bus heading to Platte Center while two may go to Shell Creek.

Or, he said, parents could simply be paid mileage.

"Whether the other two buses of students are transported will depend on what is financially best for the district," Freeman said of the Shell Creek transportation.

The total expansion comes with a maximum district cost of $6.36 million. About $1 million will come from money left from the sale of Sunrise Elementary to Archer Daniels Midland Co.

If approved, the bonds would be paid over 15 years, costing property taxpayers an additional $54.88 annually for every $100,000 in valuation over that time.

"It's time to move forward," said Blaser, "and it's time for a cure."

Those in attendance at the first public meeting shared this belief.

"For me as a parent, if I don't have to worry about the facility that she has to go to school in, then I feel more confident that she is able to focus," said Danika Rowe, who has a first-grader attending Shell Creek.

Bill Lusche, who resides in the school district, said the school board has researched options thoroughly, and if they're behind the project, he will support it 100 percent.

"There's definitely something that has to be done to accommodate additional students," he said.

Three more public informational meetings, each beginning at 7 p.m., are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

• Monday at Platte Center Elementary, 155 Platte St.

• March 31 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 39452 205th Ave.

• April 4 at Christ Lutheran Church, 32313 122 Ave.