Newton USD 373 feels out community on bond


NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – A large sampling of Newton-area residents received a robo-phone call on Thursday evening, feeling out how they felt about a potential bond election.

The robo-call presented callers with two questions:

  • Would you support a bond that included renovating Walton Rural Life Center and not building a new school?
  • Would you support a bond that included building a new school and closing Walton Rural Life Center?

Both questions had a 3-option answer: Yes, No and I will not be voting in the election.

KSN reported in February how passionate the parents of Walton schoolchildren are in keeping the school open and in it’s location. The robo-call served as a place for them to voice their opinion.

“It’s a really emotional topic for a lot of parents, and it’s a really important one for our community and our taxpayers as well,” parent Jennifer Budde said.

Two of Budde’s children attend Walton RLC and she is among those pushing for Walton to remain as is. She selected the option to support the renovation of Walton and against building a new school and closing Walton.

“I chose that mainly because, you know I’m not making this choice for myself, I’m making it for my community,” Budde said.

A Facebook page called “We Support Walton Rural Life Center” indicates many parents who got the robo-call were unable to complete it, due to the call dropping.

“My love for the school runs very very deep and I’m very passionate about seeing it remain in its current location,” Walton supporter Cristy Harder said, who also runs the page.

Harder’s call dropped before she could complete it, but she says, she would have voted to keep Walton where it is.

“It would definitely compromise the character. I think it would affect the town of Walton a lot. That, and I believe you have to look at the financial part of that, building a new building is going to cost a lot more money than renovating,” Harder said.

A consulting group is working with USD 373 to gather opinion on a bond before moving forward.

“We were looking to define or figure out what the level of support was for a potential bond, part of a bond project we would like to move forward with, and needing to have that information before we could move forward with some decisions,” Superintendent Dr. Deborah Hamm said.

Hamm explained that the district determined a sufficient need for a bond election, but they have not scheduled one yet. They are exploring the idea of a new school on the south end of town which has seen growth over the last years.

“It’s important to help inform the decisions moving forward because then you have an idea of what people will support and you aren’t trying to promote a project that wouldn’t garner support of the community. Because we do want it to be something the community supports,” Dr. Hamm said.

The bulk of the bond, if scheduled, would be spent on Newton High School, renovating part of the school built in 1974 into a “21st century learning space”.

The consulting group will look over the data gathered and share it with the subcommittee appointed by the district at a future date, when ready.

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