Frequently Asked Questions

 

What are the needs at South Tama County Middle School?

STC Middle School has numerous facility and capacity challenges that, if left unaddressed, threaten the level of quality education we can provide to our students. The current building is 106 years old and is at the end of its useful lifespan.   

 

By acting now, we believe we can address these needs that will ensure our middle school continues to provide excellent learning environments for students now and in the years to come.  

 

What were the two final options the Community Facilities Task Force considered? 

The South Tama County Community Facilities Task Force has been examining the STC Middle School’s facility needs and exploring potential solutions for the past eight months. The task force reviewed several options and narrowed them down to two potential plans:
 

(A) Iowa Juvenile Home Option: This option would involve renovating the vacant Iowa Juvenile Home, with an addition to right-size the school. The remaining area at the site would be developed into community housing. The total cost would be $26.8 million.

 

With this option, the tax levy rate would be at $2.06. The tax rate would decrease due to the district paying off a previous GO Bond. Residential properties would see about a $31.54/year ($2.63/month) tax rate decrease from their current tax bill based on a home assessed at $100,000. Agricultural properties would see a $339.41/year ($28.28/month) tax rate decrease based on the assessed value of 400 acres.

 

(B) Middle School Addition to High School Option: This option would include constructing a middle school addition at our high school site and renovating the limited spaces at the high school for shared science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) spaces. It would use the middle of the estimated budget range and maximum bonding capacity. The total cost would be $31 million.

 

With this option, the tax levy rate would be at $2.70. There would be little to no change in property tax bills due to the district paying off a previous GO Bond. 

The task force is recommending the Iowa Juvenile Home Renovation option, which calls for a major renovation of the vacant Iowa Juvenile Home to provide a 21st century learning environment, with an addition to right-size the school. The recommendation comes after an evaluation of several factors, including cost, logistics, space and community feedback. A recent survey received 660 responses, with community members preferring the use of the Juvenile Home property when asked about the options.

The Board of Education has approved the Iowa Juvenile Home Renovation plan, with a budget of $26.8 million.

What would be the community impact of each option?

The Iowa Juvenile Home option would create a future for Iowa Juvenile Home, leverage state funds, and maintain a district presence in Toledo.

 

The Middle School Addition to the High School option would create a unified STC campus, provide for new highway visual identity, and make for the ability to host larger events.

 

What process has been used to identify needs and come up with these potential solutions?

In November 2021, the South Tama County Community Task Force held a series of public informational meetings to share details on the options under consideration and gain the input and feedback of our district residents. The meetings included small-group discussions focused on (1) educational impact, (2) finances, (3) design, and (4) construction cost for each option. 

 

Staff with INVISION Architects and Estes Construction took careful notes to bring information back to the task force for further review and to determine next steps. The community-led task force is now considering the cost of each option and if and when a bond issue should be presented for the community’s consideration. 

Additionally, INVISION and Estes Construction have met with more than 400 people in the community through 20 meetings over the past several months.

 

We want to hear your thoughts about how we can best address the challenges ahead of us. The South Tama County Community Task Force, Board of Education, and district administration will continue to seek the input and feedback of community members throughout the process, leading right up to election day. 

Who covered the costs to improve the Partnership Center last year? Why can’t the district use all of that facility?

The district’s insurance company paid for the repairs to the Partnership Center as part of our claim stemming from the 2020 derecho storm. The state granted the school temporary permission to use the facility to serve students. The state would require the district to make major and expensive changes to the Partnership Center if we were to use it as a long-term solution.

 

If an insurance payout covered repairs to the middle school, why are there still challenges with the building?

The insurance claim from the 2020 derecho mostly covered a new roof on the middle school and gym, along with painting the interior and replacing ceiling tiles. This work, while important, did little to address the structural issues in the 106-year-old building.

 

Could 5th and 6th grade move to the Partnership Center, with 7th and 8th grade remaining in the current middle school?

The district explored this option, but determined it was not feasible in the long term. While the state granted the district temporary permission to use the Partnership Center after the derecho, the state would require us to make major improvements to the Center if we were to use it as a long-term solution. Doing so would be cost prohibitive.

 

What will happen to the current middle school and the Partnership Center if a new school is built?

If residents approve the building of a new middle school, the project budget would include the demolition of the old middle school building. However, the demolition would only take place if the district is unable to find a buyer for the property. The existing gym would likely remain and be used by the city of Toledo as a recreation center. The Partnership Center would remain as-is.

 

Could the Partnership Center be used for larger, supplemental programs for students?

Yes, this remains a possibility. While the district will be unable to use the Partnership Center as a primary educational space for students, we could use it for a variety of other purposes. We continue to explore various options when it comes to this facility, but they would be separate from the new middle school project that’s now under consideration. 

 

How old is the Iowa Juvenile Home?

The Iowa Juvenile Home building is more than 50 years old, but has been updated within the past 10 years. The structure of the building is solid and would be usable as a potential space for students, if the proposed project were to move forward. 

Why is the Iowa Juvenile Home a Better Option Than Renovating the Current Middle School?

This is an option our community-led Task Force, the Board of Education, and district leaders considered. However, the current 106-year-old STC Middle School building structure is primarily composed of load-bearing walls. This makes it a solid building, but also inflexible and not easy to adapt. The existing classroom sizes are too small, and the overall building needs to grow by about 50 percent to meet modern guidelines for the amount of space per student. 

Additionally, the district recognizes that modern learning environments are more transparent, with the ability of staff to supervise multiple areas at once. The load-bearing walls inhibit the district’s ability to significantly adapt the building in a cost-effective way. It’s also worth noting that the existing site is approximately 10 percent of the site area recommended for a middle school, which leads to significant congestion and safety issues. There’s also little room for building expansion, parking, and recreational fields.

 

Would there be sewer and plumbing issues at the Iowa Juvenile Home?

Any potential issues with sewers and/or plumbing would be addressed through the potential project, if it were to move forward.

 

Is the Iowa Juvenile Home big enough to accommodate students?

Yes. The interior of the building would be gutted and reconfigured to accommodate the students we would need to serve in the building both now and in the years to come. The classrooms and spaces would be designed to meet the demands of 21st century learning. 

 

Are the maintenance sheds or other buildings at the Iowa Juvenile Home site usable for the district?

Yes. We believe the school would be able to use the large maintenance building currently at the site. We would also likely convert the smaller maintenance building into a concession stand.

 

Would the project budget include new roads and infrastructure around the site of a new school?

Yes. The project planning includes the building of new roads and parking lots around the potential new middle school.

Is it correct that the electrical system at the Iowa Juvenile Home should work for another 15-25 years? Would it need updating at that point?

The panels are still usable and code-compliant, so they can be reused and are expected to last another 15-25 years. After that, they would need to be replaced. We had already assumed that most, if not all, conduit and other electrical would be replaced in the new design, so there is some cost overlap with the estimate Estes has already presented.

 

What is the maintenance cost for the geothermal system at the Iowa Juvenile Home? 

The maintenance costs of the geothermal system break down into two parts: A) The geo field itself requires almost no maintenance, aside from some annual chemical additives and could last 30+ years more. B) The maintenance cost of the heat pumps within the building that utilize the ground-source heating are fairly low maintenance, but do have a short life span (10-20 years, depending on maintenance). The IJH heat pumps have received no maintenance and some have already begun to fail or have already been replaced.

What is the total cost of the Iowa Juvenile Home renovation project?

The board has set a budget of $26.8 million for the IJH renovation project, including:

  • $15 million from general obligation bond

  • $9.8 million from sales tax bonds

  • $2 million from sales tax cash

  • 44% of the total project budget is scheduled from sales tax (not from property taxes)

Will the community get to vote on this?

Yes, the Board of Education has placed a bond issue question on the ballot for Tuesday, March 1, 2022. All residents who live within the boundaries of the South Tama Community School District may cast their ballot in this election.

For voting information, visit https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation/.

Can I vote early?

If you plan to vote early for the March 1 special election, you have until Monday, February 28, at 4:30 p.m. to do so. Registered voters can visit the Tama County Auditor’s Office (104 W. State Street in Toledo) during business hours to cast their absentee ballot. 

What is the question that will appear on the ballot March 1?

The exact question that will appear on the ballot is as follows:

Shall the Board of Directors of the South Tama County Community School District in the Counties of Tama and Poweshiek, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $15,000,000 to provide funds to acquire, remodel, repair, rebuild, improve, furnish and equip the Iowa Juvenile Home into a middle school, and to improve the site?