NEOSHO, MO.--- Neosho school administrators say they desperately need voters to say yes to a $24 million bond this April. Since Neosho is growing, the need for a junior high is great. 7th graders are at the middle school and 8th graders are at the high school. As you can imagine, it's very crowded but safety is the big issue.
"That's the bottom line, the kids need the space," said Dan Decker, Neosho Superintendent.
A $24 million bond issue will be on the April ballot to build a new junior high near Carver Elementary in Neosho.
"It's vital we get this passed, because currently we have the 8th grade in the high school, which is overcrowded. We have the 7th grade at the middle school, which is over crowded. If we can move both those grades, it would solve this problem," said Steve Douglas, Neosho Board of Education.
Right now, the high school is 76,000 square feet short of space due to overcrowding.
"Very, very crowded in the hallways. You literally can not go in several places within the school without having physical contact with other students," said Terri Kemna, High School Teacher.
However, the new junior high will be around 115,000 square feet and accommodate 765 junior high students. Crowding isn't the main issue, safety takes first priority.
"Yes, there is a safety issue in terms of the weather. Where we can get them in and out. We want them to be safe, not only for that, but also when you have all that, if there is something like a lockdown or a tornado, the students are contained," said Kemna.
"A need for tornado shelters is really big and the trailers aren't safe at all," said Julia Houk, Junior High Student.
Some junior high students feel a new building will help with safety.
"It should be on the top priority list because it's not safe for us and it's not comfortable," said Houk.
Currently, there aren't any tornado shelters in any of the schools. However, a FEMA grant has been approved to build them. If the bond is passed, the junior high will have a shelter along with enhanced security features. However, if the bond doesn't pass, mobile classrooms will have to be used.
"Our only option as a district is to continue to put trailers or mobile classrooms at the sites to accommodate the growth in the students," said Decker.
Teachers are hopeful for the new school.
"I think we can make it happen if people look at the big picture and what's best for students and not just nit-pick little tiny things, but look at the over all picture," said Kemna.
The new junior high will either be a yes or a no depending on how the community wants to vote in April.
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