Schools suffer the consequences of failed bond issues

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April 24, 2019 - 10:05 AM

Andrew Gaddis is superintendent of Unified School District 377 in rural northeastern Kansas. The district has tried five times since 1974 to pass a school bond measure. All those attempts have failed. DAVID KAUP/ THE HECHINGER REPORT

EFFINGHAM, Kansas ? In 2014, a cash-strapped school district in rural northeast Kansas turned to its residents with a plea: Pay a little more in taxes annually so we can renovate classrooms, update the wiring and give students better spaces to learn.

Voters rejected the measure by a margin of 54 to 46 percent. While disappointing, the results were hardly surprising to the district?s leaders. Atchison County Community Schools, or Unified School District 377, has tried ? and failed ? to pass measures for capital construction five times in 18 years. The last successful school bond campaign was in 1974.

Since then, maintenance problems have compounded. One snowy morning this January, the 26-year-old boiler in the district?s central office building, which also houses the preschool and kindergarten classes, sputtered to a stop.

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