COLUMBUS - Voters in the Lakeview Community School District put their final stamp of approval on a proposed expansion project at Shell Creek Elementary Tuesday.
The unofficial results of the special election - 367 for and 325 against, with one provisional vote uncounted - clear the way for the district to issue $5.4 million in bonds to help finance additions and renovations at the 41-year-old school.
"Obviously we're pleased with the results," said Superintendent Russ Freeman, "but we want to make sure that everyone in the district, whether they voted for it or against it, ends up with a quality product that will continue to serve the district into the future."
The project, which should begin this summer, includes adding about 30,000 square feet to the elementary, with remodeling occurring in the facility's existing 22,279-square-foot main level.
Upon completion - expected in the summer of 2012 - Shell Creek Elementary, 16786 280th St., will become a double-track school, with two classrooms and sections each for grades kindergarten through sixth.
"It is going to be a good facility, and we are going to be able to support our kids in other buildings at the same time," Freeman said.
Plans for expansion within Lakeview Community Schools first surfaced after the sale of Sunrise Elementary to Archer Daniels Midland Co. in late 2009. The result of growing concerns over student safety, the transaction led to increased enrollments at both Platte Center and Shell Creek elementary schools, which currently sit at 145 and 176 students, respectively.
Moving forward with the Shell Creek expansion, Lakeview School Board President Keith Runge said, is what's best for the district when looking to reduce class sizes.
And most of those voting Tuesday agreed.
"I really feel like we need to do something about these large classes," Sandi Pieters said after casting her vote of support.
Pieters had four children in the Lakeview system, the youngest of whom attended with a class of 32.
"That's way too many children for one teacher to handle," she said.
About 40 Platte Center students will likely be shifted to Shell Creek after the expansion.
"The school system needs it," said district resident Marcel Giroux. "We need to do something."
In addition to an increase in classrooms, the $6.36 million project includes a 160-person cafeteria, a media center that doubles the size of the present library, offices and a new roof and HVAC system.
The bond package approved Tuesday to help pay for the work will increase the district's property tax levy by 5.559 cents for every $100 in valuation over its 15-year life span - resulting in a $55.59 annual tax increase for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Nearly $1 million from the sale of Sunrise Elementary has also been earmarked for the project.
"We're going to work hard to spend every dollar wisely and not have to raise taxes any more than necessary," said Runge.
Although Lakeview officials were expectedly happy about Tuesday's election results, there was disappointment with the voter turnout and narrow 6 percent margin of victory.
Just 22.4 percent of the 3,088 eligible voters cast a ballot during the election, including 99 absentee votes.
"That is low," said Platte County Election Commissioner Diane Olmer, "very low."
At Platte County Agricultural Park, only 40 of the 700 eligible voters in the Columbus Township A precinct had walked through the doors by 3 p.m.
Karen Andrew, who was helping oversee the election at Ag Park, described the day as "very slow," blaming nice weather for keeping the district's mainly rural residents in their fields and yards and away from the polls.
By 5:30 p.m., voting had picked up at Lakeview Junior/Senior High School, but only about 120 of Shell Creek precinct's 603 eligible voters had cast a ballot.
"We might have been better off with a little rain," Andrew said.
According to Olmer, the election results will be canvassed Thursday.
Then, Freeman said, the district can begin working with a civil engineer to determine any land needs for the project, and start plotting the forward course with its fiscal agents, construction manager at-risk and architect.